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Election commissioner opens up about primary and concerns for general election

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Sedgwick County Election Office is a little quieter than primary election day, but hard work is still going on inside to wrap up duties and results, as well as prepare for the general election in November.

Workers are continuing to verify and county mail-in ballots with valid postmark dates.

“We are still getting ballots,” said Tabitha Lehman, Sedgwick County election commissioner. “Of course, we had ballots that were dropped off late as far as too late in the day for us to verify signatures and get them included. We had ballots that were dropped off at polling places. Now, we’re dealing with anything that comes in the mail that was postmarked and we receive it by Friday, we count those as well.”

This year was the county’s first time releasing a flyer encouraging people to vote by mail.

Lehman said if that flyer is sent out again for future primaries, officials plan to do so a lot sooner to allow voters to prepare.

“We had a lot of people who didn’t follow those instructions that caused an incredible amount of work for my staff to follow up on that,” said Lehman.

That was just one challenge workers faced during the primary election. Lehman has publicly announced her battle with cancer and said her not being able to work 80-100 hours a week leading up to the election did play a role in the delayed results. She said several poll workers canceled too.

“We ended up having to send six of our office staff out to polling places to get the polls open to make sure people could vote and that affected our ability to be ready on election night, as well,” said Lehman.

Officials said Sedgwick County had a 25% voter turnout, which is an increase from the amount expected.

The election office is now in conversation to get more help for the general election while commissioner Lehman continues her battle with cancer.

For now, workers will continue going through the rest of the mail-in ballots as they arrive, then canvassing and the election audit.

The work continues for the big day in November which Lehman said brings challenges of its own.

“I have a very big concern that if we struggled this much to get election workers for the primary,” said Lehman. “We need hundreds more for the general and that is terrifying to me.”

Results from the primary election will continue to come in through the end of the week.

If you or someone you know is interested in being a poll worker or helping the election office prepare for the general election in November, call the office at 316-660-7100 or click here to visit the county’s election website for more information. Lehman said similar precautions from the primary will be carried over to the general election to ensure the safety of voters and poll workers.

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