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Archive for Friday, July 26, 2002

County changes voting vocabulary

July 26, 2002

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Longtime voters in Douglas County may be confused when they go to their polling place this year.

That's because all of the wards  the political groupings of precincts that helped carve up Lawrence  have disappeared into the history books.

"We no longer use the ward designation, we just use precincts," County Clerk Patty Jaimes said Thursday. Registered voters were mailed a notice recently about the new designation.

The reason?

It will make it simpler and less confusing to keep records and tallies on Election Night, when the votes are counted, Jaimes said.

For example, people who voted at the polling place of the First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway, were in the 8th Precinct of the 2nd Ward, or 8-2 for short.

Some people would get that mixed up with 2-8, which is the 2nd Precinct, 8th Ward, Jaimes said.

Under the new system, all of the precincts have been renumbered, 1-67. So if you vote at the First Presbyterian Church, you are now in Precinct 14.

"I think it will help our people who use the computers," she said.

There wasn't any real use of the designation of ward any more, she said.

She thought that at one time, when Lawrence was under the mayor/council system of city government, wards were used to designate areas for each seat on the city council.

But when the city government changed to the existing commission/city manager form, commissioners were elected at-large. So wards were no longer necessary.

Allan Cigler, a Kansas University political science professor, said wards were more important to the local political party apparatus in larger cities.

For example, in Chicago, a political ward leader, who would be in charge of a number of precincts, is a fairly high political position, Cigler said.

"The real base of the machine was a ward leader," he said.

But in this part of the country, there traditionally hasn't been a position between the county party chairman and the precinct committee positions, Cigler said.

Bryan Caskey, an administrative aide in the elections division of the Kansas Secretary of State's Office, said many counties continue to use the ward and precinct designation, although, a few, such as Lyons County and Saline County, no longer do.

For redistricting purposes, the important aspect is the geographical area, not the name, he said. The state uses a six-digit census number assigned to each precinct.

"The name, we don't worry so much about," Caskey said. "What the counties want to call it is entirely up to them."

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