Kobach defends embattled election official

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Jean Schodorf, the Democratic candidate opposing Secretary of State Kris Kobach in November’s election, urged that Kobach should fire the Sedgwick County election commissioner because of how she handled a ballot petition seeking to decriminalize marijuana in Wichita.

But Kobach told The Wichita Eagle on Wednesday that he has no intention of firing election commissioner Tabitha Lehman and commended her work. Lehman determined after a recount last week that the petition was 47 signatures short of the 2,928 needed to put the marijuana question on the November ballot.

Amid the calls for her resignation, Sedgwick County issued a news release on Lehman’s behalf, saying the office followed long-standing guidelines provided by the secretary of state’s office for processing petitions. Lehman said she certified the 2,881 signatures on the petition on the petition after correcting a typographical error in the original certification, which meant the number of signatures fell short.

But after the results were certified, it came to the attention of the election office that one page had been missed during scanning, Lehman said in the release. That page contained 11 acceptable signatures, still not enough to put the issue on the ballot.

The Sedgwick County election office’s handling of the petition is playing out amid a contentious race for Kansas secretary of state.

Schodorf sent out a news release Wednesday demanding Kobach dismiss Lehman on the basis of “incompetence and gross misconduct.”

“Her repeated blunders show a lack of ability to perform the duties she is required to do in her position to ensure safe and secure elections in Kansas,” said Schodorf, who also criticized Lehman for counting votes on the petition behind closed doors.

The secretary of state has the authority to appoint the election commissioners for the four largest counties. The remaining counties either use their respective county clerk or appoint someone else to do the job.

“I have no intention of firing her for doing an extremely careful job and making sure she’s very transparent and accountable and allowing the public to inspect the decision on the counting of the signatures,” Kobach said.

Esau Freeman, one of the leaders of the marijuana petition, told the city commission on that he and other petition leaders were not allowed to observe the count.

“The citizens deserve better,” he said.

 

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