Government & Politics

Strong voter turnout reported as Kansas residents cast ballots on races with national implications

Voters fill out their ballots Tuesday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 11 East 40th St. A steady stream of people filed into the church to cast their votes.
Voters fill out their ballots Tuesday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 11 East 40th St. A steady stream of people filed into the church to cast their votes. The Kansas City Star

Voters on Tuesday went to the polls to cast their vote on local issues and some races that could have national implications.

In Johnson County, voting was reported to be strong, with some poll locations reporting waits of up to 30 minutes long.

“What we are hearing is that the feeling from our workers that this is as busy as they have seen it — as busy as a presidential election,” said Brian Newby, Johnson County election commissioner. “It probably isn’t as busy as a presidential election, but we have a third fewer polling locations.”

So if turnout ends up being two-thirds of a presidential election as expected, the polling locations will be as busy, Newby said. He expected the flow of voters to be steady throughout the day after an early rush.

Newby said he knew of few problems. “The issues that we are hearing are just related to the volume of people.”

It’s also taking longer to vote this election because of the number of issues and races on the ballot, he said.

“It’s going to take about four minutes per voter on average. That is going to add to the line. That is going to add to the time that the machines are being used.”

Newby said it is hard to predict turnout, but he was expecting it to reach 50 to 55 percent. “It’s hard to gauge,” he said.

He think it’s the races and the issues that are attracting the voters.

“I think there are some hyper races for sure and I think there is a lot of advertising for those races,” Newby said. “I’m a big believer that you can always tell people it’s important to vote, it’s their civic right and all that, but compelling races and compelling candidates is what brings out voters. Obviously that is what is happening today.”

Olivia Alexander of Roeland Park said she went to vote Tuesday as she always has since she was 18 years old.

“I think it is an important part of being a United States citizen and living in the state of Kansas,” she said. “I was just making sure the representatives that I believe in are in office representing me.”

While some voters were attracted to the polls because of the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Pat Roberts and independent challenger Greg Orman and the Kansas governor’s race between incumbent Republican Sam Brownback and Democrat Paul Davis, Paul Schapker said it was the local races that attracted him.

“I’m a teacher here in Kansas and I think there is a lot of issues that are going on right now with education funding and with the retention of some important judges that are ruling on some cases that have to do with education funding,” he said.

He said the governor’s and senator’s races were on his radar, but as a teacher, education was the No. 1 concern.

“I wanted to make sure I got my vote in.”

At 8:30 a.m., the line of voters at Saint Andrew Christian Church in Olathe was down the hall and curved around.

Some business men and women stopped by before work and realized they’d be waiting for a while. A group of moms straight from dropping kids at school thought they’d pop in and out and have plenty of time make it somewhere else by 9.

“I’ve never had to wait before,” one mom said, eying the line and wondering aloud whether she should leave and come back.

One poll worker said lines had been long all morning at Saint Andrew. An election volunteer at the church site for five years, he said the constant line was a first for him and he’d never seen a turnout like the one Tuesday.

About 11 a.m., at least 30 people were waiting to vote at Hillcrest Covenant Church in Prairie Village.

Statewide, the Kansas secretary of state’s office said Tuesday, nearly 230,000 Kansas voters had cast their ballots before the polls opened Election Day.

The office said 114,690 mail-in ballots had been turned in by Tuesday morning, fewer than in 2010. An additional 115,079 advance voters had gone to the polls, an increase from 2010.

Combined, 67,498 of the voters were Democrats, 834 were Libertarians, 125,561 were Republican and 35,876 were unaffiliated.

The Star’s Laura Bauer and Elaine Adams and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

To reach Robert A. Cronkleton, call 816-234-4261 or send email to bcronkleton@kcstar.com.

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