Local candidates face the challenge of improving local voter turnout for the Nov. 8 election.
Ninety-seven days. That's how long candidates for two local seats in the Kansas Legislature have to figure out how to get Douglas County voters out to the polls.
Figures released by the Kansas secretary of state's office showed that only 23 percent of Douglas County's electorate made the effort to vote in Tuesday's primary -- the lowest turnout of any county in the state.
Chris Miller, Douglas County's Republican Party chairman, said part of the reason could be that many voters work outside of Lawrence and don't have as strong an interest in local politics.
"There's more of a sense of involvement if you live and work in the same community," Miller said. "We just have an awful lot of people who live in Lawrence and work somewhere else. That weakens the political structure and certainly the political involvement."
Louise Silber, who chairs the county's Democratic Party, said the turnout results were skewed because many Kansas University students who registered here to vote in the presidential election two years ago no longer live here.
"It's still disappointing, even adjusting for that population, I'd say the turnout was extremely low," Silber said. "I'm sure that both parties and candidates will be working to get out the vote."
Patty Jaimes, Douglas County clerk, agreed the reason for the low turnout was that so many of Lawrence's registered voters are KU students and faculty who are gone for the summer.
Another reason could be that 35 percent of the county's voters, or 16,172, are unaffiliated, representing the largest bloc of local voters. There are 13,447 Democrats, or 29 percent, and 15,671 Republicans, or 34 percent, with 402 Libertarians.
Candidates running for two Lawrence statehouse seats say they'll be trying to drum up voter interest in the next few weeks by stepping up their door-to-door campaigns.
"I was disappointed about the turnout, but primaries tend to be that way," said Troy Findley, who won Tuesday's Democratic primary for the Kansas House, 46th District seat.
Findley, a lifelong Lawrence resident who moved into the eastern Lawrence district in June, said his campaign will be issue-oriented, concentrating on crime, jobs, health care and education.
Findley will face Republican Eric Schmidt, a stockbroker, who won Tuesday's GOP primary.
Schmidt said he's now trying to solidify Republicans behind him and to do more door-to-door campaigning.
"That, I hope, will turn out more voters and more interest," Schmidt said.
Republican Tom Sloan, who won the GOP primary for the Kansas House 45th District, which includes western Douglas County and several Lawrence neighborhoods, said he will stress high-quality education and funding for it, and taxation issues.
Sloan faces Democratic incumbent Forrest Swall in the fall election. Swall could not be reached this morning for comment about his strategies for the Nov. 8 election.