GIRARD — Last Tuesday’s vote-counting snafu which left the 3rd District County Commission race up in the air is not the first instance of its kind in Crawford County’s recent history.
On Nov. 4, 2014 during the midterm elections, the race for a 3rd District seat in the Kansas House was upended by a similar counting error.
According to a Morning Sun story at the time, early results showed incumbent Julie Menghini, (D-Pittsburg,) with a 62 vote lead over her opponent, Republican Chuck Smith, with nearly 200 provisional ballots from District 3 left to count.
Later into the evening, County Clerk Don Pyle and his office noticed some voting numbers were low. The polling place at Church of Christ in Pittsburg only showed 36 votes had been placed.
“The backup card was read instead of the live card which contained the numbers from our test decks,” he said.
When the main data cards were uploaded on election night, they added roughly 1,531 votes into the county’s results and took Menghini from a 62 vote lead to trailing by 130. Ultimately, Smith was declared the winner.
Pyle said Crawford County did a machine recount of votes from the Church of Christ polling place following the 2014 election.
“Those numbers came out exactly as what they were on Election Day once the correct cards were loaded in,” he said.
Pyle said the biggest change in procedure was a matter of diligence. Election workers now label which data cards are back ups and which are live.
Though they may seem similar, Pyle said the counting error in 2014 is much different than last Tuesday’s.
“It wasn’t that they got read twice, they read erroneous results,” he said.
Bryan Caskey from the election division of the Office of the Kansas Secretary of State echoed Pyle’s sentiments.
“A corrupted data card is not the same issue as results from a precinct being uploaded twice into a system,” he said.
Last Tuesday on Election Day, data cards from five of Crawford County’s 16 polling places were entered into the system twice, resulting in inaccurate results that bore heavily on the 3rd District County Commission race between Democrat Jeremy Johnson and Republican Chad Ulepich. That race, along with the race for the 2nd District Kansas House of Representatives, will be the subject of a county-ordered hand recount, scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday.
When it comes to preventing ballots from being counted twice, Pyle said the county will pursue improvements down the line.
“Right now we are focused on getting set up for recounts,” he said. “After that, we don’t have any elections on the horizon in the next month or so, so we’ll need to sit down and think about it once we have time to process and review everything that happened.”
Caskey said that while counting errors aren’t common, they do happen.
“This is why we emphasize so much that election night is unofficial,” he said. “We are proofreading as we are collecting information. We need time to validate everything… Election night itself is just the beginning of a story that lasts all week.”

Crawford County found the error during their routine audit of the results. Caskey lauded the county’s election officials for their transparency.
“The big takeaway is that through their own processes, they caught it and were completely transparent about it,” he said. “That’s what I think the right response to an issue like this is.”