Kansas judge bars Wichita mathematician's access to voting machine tapes
A judge denied a Wichita mathematician’s request for access to paper voting machine tapes from the 2014 election that she wants to examine for evidence of possible fraud or malfunctioning.
Sedgwick County Judge Tim Lahey ruled Thursday that he couldn’t order county officials to turn over the tapes to Beth Clarkson because she presented the same argument in a previous lawsuit she lost. He denied a motion by the county’s election commissioner, Tabitha Lehman, to dismiss Clarkson’s open records case, but it was a hollow victory, since the point of the lawsuit was to check the accuracy of the voting machines, the Wichita Eagle .
More than 100 people, most of them voting rights supporters, packed the courtroom to watch the proceedings.
The judge told Clarkson’s attorney, Randy Rathbun, that he couldn’t order the county to turn over the tapes the law prohibits litigating the same legal issue, by the same parties, twice.
Lahey told Rathbun he “won the battle” because the case could go to trial on the question of whether to have the recount. But he says he “lost the war” because she won’t get access to the voting machine tapes even if she wins at trial.
Rathbun, a former U.S. attorney who took up her recent case without charge, said he plans to appeal the ruling.
Clarkson, chief statistician for Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research, lost the earlier open-records case because she is a brilliant statistician, but “a horrible lawyer,” Rathbun said.
Rathbun sought a recount of votes on the assumption that Clarkson would be able to watch the process and get the information she wants.
The judge ruled Clarkson had made a timely request for a recount of votes cast in 2014 and rejected the county’s argument that too much time had passed to conduct a recount.
Although it wouldn’t change the outcome of any elections, which have already been certified, even a belated recount would have value in ensuring the integrity of elections, Lahey said.
“I’m disappointed the judge ruled I wouldn’t be allowed to look,” she said.