Almost as soon as she could, Jacquelyn Dinvaut voted in what has been a tumultuous, and at times unique, election.
“I’m firm in my decision,” Dinvaut, of Olathe, said Monday morning. “So I’m ready just to go ahead and cast my ballot.”
She was one of thousands of Kansans who voted Monday. The state offers roughly two weeks of early voting, allowing many to vote by mail or at an advance voting site in their county.
Johnson County opened six early voting sites Monday. Wyandotte County will start its early voting Tuesday at three sites, including at the county election office.
Ronnie Metsker, the election commissioner in Johnson County, said the county has set a record with more than 400,000 registered voters. Metsker said he was hoping for an 80 percent turnout, with half of that being early votes. That would translate to 160,000 people voting early.
By the end of Monday, 10,719 people had turned out to vote at the county’s advance voting locations.
“People are very interested in this presidential election,” Metsker said. “It always brings out the biggest turnout.”
Republican nominee Donald Trump is expected to carry Kansas, but pundits and politicians alike have highlighted the GOP nominee’s struggles to win over some voters, including in Johnson County.
Democrat Hillary Clinton has built up support in parts of northeast Kansas, including in the 3rd Congressional District, where Rep. Kevin Yoder, the Republican incumbent, is in a tight race with Democrat Jay Sidie.
Leaving the polls on Monday, some voters were mum about whom they picked to succeed President Barack Obama, though many said they were disappointed by the tone the presidential campaign had taken.
“I can’t say that I’m excited given, like for the presidential race, the two candidates that we had to choose from,” said Jerry Eastman, who lives in Overland Park. “But you have to choose someone.”
Nancy Miller, a former librarian who’s from Shawnee, said that “the mudslinging” between candidates made it harder to make a decision. But she said she’s decided to go with Trump over Clinton.
“I just think he can turn it around a lot better,” Miller said. “I thought it was time for a change.”
Just after they cast their ballots, Paloma Olmo and her daughter Elizabeth Olmo-Lee took a selfie with a voting sign outside the election office.
They said they were proud that they had voted for Clinton.
“I’ve never seen any election as controversial,” said Olmo, a U.S. citizen who came to the United States from Spain decades ago. “We need to have a good president, just a good president to make America still great, like it is.”
Wayne Trickel, from Shawnee, said he was disappointed in the election and that there were too many “nasty comments” made by candidates.
“I’m 76 years old, and I see our country going the wrong direction,” Trickel said. “I hope everybody will express their opinion, and we’ll live with it either way.”
Missouri has absentee voting rather than early voting. To vote absentee, Missourians have to give a reason why they can’t go to their polling place on Election Day, according to the Missouri secretary of state’s office. In Kansas, early voting is open to all registered voters.
Election Day is Nov. 8. Polls in Kansas City are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to a news release from the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners. Polls in Kansas are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to the Kansas secretary of state’s website. However, polls in Johnson County open at 6 a.m.
Across the United States, 37 states and the District of Columbia offer early voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Voters are already casting ballots in some battleground states, with initial analysis from the Associated Press on Oct. 22 showing Clinton doing well in North Carolina and Florida, while Trump was showing strength in Ohio, Iowa and Georgia.
In Douglas County, Kan., where early voting started last Wednesday, staff estimated that 2,000 people had voted in person by the end of the day Monday. Jamie Shew, the Douglas County clerk, said the numbers so far have been larger than the same time in 2008.
“What we’re trying to figure out is, does this mean we’re going to have a higher turnout, or it just means more people are voting early,” Shew said.
Michael Smith, a political science professor at Emporia State University, said the turnout numbers may reflect the fact that early voting is no longer a novelty to Kansas voters. And he said it wasn’t uncommon for voters to have their minds made up before Election Day comes around.
“Maybe we can have a little normalcy with the election mechanics, anyway,” Smith said of voters committing to cast ballots for candidates early. “We certainly haven’t with the campaigns.”