Archive for Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Lawrence moderates rebuff conservatives

25 percent turn out for primary despite heat

August 4, 2004


Two moderate Republican incumbents withstood conservative challenges in Douglas County legislative races Tuesday, while Democrats chose the man they want to beat Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney.

Scorching temperatures apparently didn't override interest in the races, as turnout topped the 2002 primaries, officials said Tuesday.

"I didn't even think about the heat," said Nathan Beard, a 25-year-old Lawrence resident. "I wanted to vote in this election and make my vote make a difference. I'll come no matter how hot it is."

An unofficial count showed 14,163 voters cast ballots; a 25 percent turnout rate. In the 2002 primary, turnout was 20 percent.

In Tuesday's marquee races:

  • Incumbent Mark Buhler of Lawrence defeated GOP challenger Don Johnson of Lawrence in the 2nd Senate District. Buhler will face Democrat Marci Francisco and Reform Party Candidate Jim Mullins in the November general election.
  • Charles Branson defeated Martin Miller for the Democratic nomination for district attorney. Branson will face incumbent Republican Christine Kenney in November.
  • Incumbent State Rep. Tom Sloan of Lawrence defeated Republican challenger Keith Noe in the 45th House District race. Barring a successful write-in effort, Sloan will be re-elected in November because there is no Democratic challenger.
  • Charlene Conner, left, and Rita Fulks feed ballots into a ballot
counter for the primary election at the Douglas County Courthouse.
Troubles with the machines because of high humidity slowed the
counting process Tuesday.

    Charlene Conner, left, and Rita Fulks feed ballots into a ballot counter for the primary election at the Douglas County Courthouse. Troubles with the machines because of high humidity slowed the counting process Tuesday.

  • Incumbent State Rep. Tom Holland of Baldwin beat back Democratic challenger Leo V. Kerwin in the 10th House District. Holland now will face Republican Rich Lorenzo in November.

Official on Friday

Officials will not know the exact vote count until Friday, when the state canvassing is done, said Marni Penrod, deputy county clerk.

Officials said the elections went well, despite a few complaints and ballot counting slowed by machines having trouble reading some paper ballots because of the humidity.

Penrod said Tuesday night that one of the county's two vote-counting machines typically was susceptible to minor problems. But Tuesday, the high humidity made some ballots stick together, causing the machine trouble.

Ballots from two precincts were particularly problematic: those from the North Wakarusa precinct, which votes at Wakarusa North Fire Station, and those from the Coffin Sports Complex at Haskell Indian Nations University. Those polling stations do not have air conditioning.

"There were a lot of problems with those ballots," Penrod said. "They've gathered a lot of humidity all day."

Ballot mixups

As for the voting itself, Douglas County Clerk Patty Jaimes said her office had received a complaint that campaign literature for Don Johnson, a Republican candidate for state Senate, was too near a polling place at Drury Place, an apartment building at 1510 St. Andrews Drive. Election law prohibits electioneering closer than 250 feet to the polls.

"We tell them (polling workers) to pick it up and get it out of sight," Jaimes said.

Johnson said the complaint was in error; his campaign literature was on a different floor from the polls.

"There's nothing against the law about that," Johnson said. "The residents have some information."

Marilyn Greathouse, chairman of the Douglas County Democratic Party, said ballots in precincts 32 and 36 had been mixed up early in the day.

"About 27 people had voted before this was discovered," Greathouse said. "Tom Holland and Paul Davis will, undoubtedly, challenge those ballots."

Holland said he had received a phone call from a voter in the 36th Precinct telling him his name was mistakenly on their ballot Tuesday morning. He contacted the County Clerk's Office, where officials told him they were aware of the situation and were correcting it.

Penrod said three ballots at Precinct 36 had been Precinct 32 ballots. The only difference between the two ballots were the state representative races.

Paul Davis, who ran unopposed in the 46th District, missed out on three votes, Penrod said.

"Considering all the new information poll workers had to absorb, things have gone well," Penrod said.

Still, Douglas County was among the last 20 counties statewide to report results to the Kansas secretary of state Tuesday night.

New voters, new rules

Penrod said she had heard no complaints about first-time voters having to show proper identification, a new regulation for Tuesday's election.

"In the general election, we'll have more students who will probably be first-time voters," she said. "We really need to get the word out about this new regulation before then."

Election officials at the Douglas County Senior Center were surprised by the number of first-time voters.

Supervising election judge Marjorie Haney said nearly a half dozen youngsters had voted for the first time.

"They're very enthusiastic about voting," said Haney, who has been working as an election official for 15 years.

One first-time voter was 19-year-old Sarah Richardson. She missed out on voting last year because her birthday was after the registration deadline.

"I'm really excited to be voting for the first time; it's very important," said the Kansas University nursing student from Lawrence. "I've been wanting to do it for such a long time."

Richardson said she was going to go vote with five of her friends at Lawrence High School Annex.

"Most of my friends will vote; several of them are political science majors," Richardson said. "I know there are a lot of people my age who do not vote and that makes my eye twitch. The nationwide averages are pretty depressing and sad."

First-time voters who went to the polls without proper identification could still vote Tuesday, Penrod said, but they must bring ID to the county clerk's office before Friday for their vote to be counted in the canvass.

Affiliate or go home

At Prairie Park School, 2711 Kensington Road, Carol Steele said she considered it her civic duty to vote Tuesday. But Steele, an unaffiliated voter, realized she would have to declare a party to participate in the primary.

That's something she didn't want to do.

"I care more about who I think is the better candidate than I do about a specific party," Steele said leaving Prairie Park School, her designated voting site.

Doris Stubeck, a poll worker at Prairie Park, said other unaffiliated voters also had come to vote only to find they had to declare a party. Some were willing to do so, she said. Others left without their "I voted" stickers.

A few people did seem frustrated by having to declare a party, Stubeck said.

"But you can't be a Republican for some parts and a Democrat for others," she said. "We just have two types of ballots."

-- Staff writer Alicia Henrikson contributed to this report.

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