Advance voting began Wednesday morning in Kansas for the Aug. 6 primary election. But the state's top election official doesn't expect any record voter turnout.
"I travel the state and see people and go to a lot of coffee shops," Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh said. "I don't see a lot of interest in the primary election right now. I'm somewhat concerned as to what that means to the turnout on Aug. 6."
Thornburgh declined to make a specific voter turnout prediction. But part of the reason for the lower interest could be that the campaigning got off to a late start because of a court challenge to new congressional districts drawn up by the Kansas Legislature, he said.
Because of the redistricting lawsuit, advance voting, which was supposed to start a week ago, was delayed until Wednesday morning.
Thornburgh said advance voting made it easier for people to find the time to make it to the ballot box.
The feature races on the primary election ballot are the GOP battles for governor and attorney general.
This fall, all of the top state leadership positions will be up for grabs, including governor, attorney general, insurance commissioner, state treasurer, secretary of state and all 125 House of Representative positions.
"We're looking at dramatic changes in the state of Kansas, and it's important for everyone to participate," Thornburgh said.
In Douglas County, six people had voted during the first two hours of advance voting, said Patty Jaimes, county clerk. By late Wednesday afternoon, that number had grown to 40.
A voting booth has been set up in the county commission chambers on the Douglas County Courthouse's second floor. Voting hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Advance voting probably will be available the Saturday before the election, but times have not been set.
To vote in advance, registered voters fill out an application, sign a roster and get a ballot, which is opened after the polls close at 7 p.m. election day.
There are about 300 people on a list of permanent advance voters, most with disabilities, Jaimes said. Also receiving mail ballots are voters in a couple of new precincts in the city where there are too few voters to open a polling place for the election.
Ballots for those voters were mailed Wednesday and must be received at the courthouse by 7 p.m. election day to be counted.
About 10 percent of voters use advance ballots, Jaimes said.
County turnout during the 1998 primary, the last governor's election, was 25.9 percent, Jaimes said. In the 2000 primary election, featuring congressional candidates, Republican turnout was 38 percent, while 17.7 percent of registered Democrats voted.
The following figures were released by the Secretary of State's Office:
1994 gubernatorial primary 458,336 votes cast statewide; 1,273,648 registered voters; 36 percent.
1998 gubernatorial primary 439,463 votes cast; 1,493,779 registered voters; 29 percent. Of that total, approximately 38,531 voted in advance; 9 percent.