More students than normal will likely visit the polls on Nov. 3, but probably not because of their interest in local issues, Douglas County's top election official says.
County Clerk Patty Jaimes said she expected more students to vote in the general election because of the presidential race.
"It's not unusual for students to vote in a presidential election because they have a lot of interest," she said. "It's hard to say how many will vote, but it's generally a larger turnout than in other years."
Jaimes estimated that 5,000 to 6,000 students voted in the 1988 presidential election in Douglas County.
This year, a record 40,602 county residents have registered to vote so far, with a few more expected to sign up by the Oct. 19 registration deadline.
The number of students registering to vote, Jaimes said, "might increase to 7,000."
Because voter registration cards do not contain information on whether a voter is a student, Jaimes said it is difficult to say how many students have registered.
"You can kind of estimate it from the date of birth, but then you would be saying that all young voters are students, which isn't really accurate either."
In 1988, 896 of 1,535 registered voters living in the Allen Fieldhouse precinct a voting district made up mostly of students cast ballots, she said.
Kansas University students who come to live in Lawrence from out-of-town are allowed to register to vote in their home district or in Douglas County. Jaimes said some students register and vote here because of convenience.
"I think there are some that will go that route . . . because it's more convenient than driving home to vote," she said. "But there are other students who feel strongly about local races in their districts, and they may register at home."
In addition to this year's presidential race, local voters will choose state officeholders and decide school bond, property tax classification and liquor-by-the-drink issues.
Jaimes said she was not sure whether student interest would be piqued in the school bond or property tax issues, but she said efforts would be made to get students interested in the liquor-by-the-drink vote.
County voters will decide whether to end the requirement that businesses selling alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises earn 30 percent of their gross sales in food. Businesses not meeting the 30 percent rule now must operate as private clubs, requiring that patrons purchase $10 annual memberships that require a 10-day waiting period.
If the ballot question passes, the 30 percent rule no longer will be the law in the county.
"I think there are some efforts being made to get students to register to vote for that issue," Jaimes said.
Private clubs in Lawrence historically have attracted large numbers of students.
During a "pub crawl" last month, club owners posted signs and verbally urged their clients to vote in favor of the liquor-by-the drink issue after agents from the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control bureau showed up and began enforcing laws for private clubs.