The Kansas secretary of state's office plans to investigate what caused delays and inaccuracies in the posting of election results in Sedgwick County on Tuesday night.
The nationwide presidential race was called before the first Sedgwick County returns were posted -- and those were only the ballots of people who had voted before Election Day.
State election director Brad Bryant said Wednesday that the problems may have stemmed from how election officials loaded information on cartridges in voting machines into a computer that tabulates the totals. That reverses earlier indications that software glitches caused the problem.
Tabitha Lehman, the county's election commissioner, acknowledged the problems were "user error." She added that her office will be working with Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office and the software vendor to resolve issues before the local spring elections.
"The plan is to go back to square one and really dissect it," Lehman said. "We'll continue to make improvements and make sure we get proper training."
Errors in reporting the number of precincts counted made it impossible to tell whether the returns online were full or partial results. The full results didn't come until almost 2 a.m. Wednesday.
The loading error appears to mirror the problems that led to delayed results during the August primary election. State officials discussed that problem with Lehman and her staff after the primary and thought they had found a solution, Bryant said.
In Sedgwick County, Republicans and Democrats agreed that the situation is not just frustrating, but intolerable.
Since Lehman took over the office from former election commissioner Bill Gale in November 2011, "you've had three elections and all three had problems," said Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat. "It doesn't seem to be getting better. It seems to be getting worse."
Bryant said that he and other state elections officials will meet with Lehman and her staff in Wichita next week to ask questions, identify what went wrong and work on solutions. The secretary of state's office doesn't have any legal investigative authority, so the meeting is largely a fact-finding one.
Bryant said his office has fielded complaints about the delays from Sedgwick County candidates. At least two candidates have suggested that Lehman should be removed from her position.
Kobach appointed Lehman to the position to complete Gale's four-year term. Her term ends July 2013 unless she is reappointed. State law says he can remove an election commissioner for "official misconduct," a term that isn't clearly defined, Bryant said.
Kobach is not contemplating removing Lehman, he said.