Archive for Friday, August 4, 2006

Turnout a new low for Kansas primaries

August 4, 2006


— Only 18 percent of the state's registered voters participated in this year's primary elections, a record low blamed on a lack of contested races and triple-digit temperatures.

But even that small percentage was better than the 12.25 percent turnout that earned Douglas County the dubious distinction of having the second lowest poll showing in Kansas.

"There didn't seem to be any races that drew people to the polls," said Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew, the county's election officer. "There wasn't a lot of active campaigning here, even in the statewide races."

Shew said the heat also kept many people home and that Eudora's four precincts had the highest turnout in the county, around 20 percent each. There, voters passed a bond issue for a new swimming pool.

About 296,000 people statewide voted, out of 1.6 million registered, according to the secretary of state's office. The previous record low was 26 percent set in 2002.

Democrats had only one contested statewide race, for secretary of state. While seven Republicans were seeking the party's nomination for governor, only one, Sen. Jim Barnett, the eventual winner, used television advertising.

"The bottom line is that the one thing that continues to draw great voter turnout is highly contested, active races," Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh said Thursday.

Thornburgh also said declining interest in primaries is a national trend. In Kansas, turnout dropped from 43 percent in 1992 to 26 percent in 2002, but it rebounded two years later to 31 percent.

Mike Gaughn, executive director of the state Democratic Party, blamed the low turnout on the Republicans who sought the right to challenge Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in the Nov. 7 general election.

"Republican candidates didn't give voters a compelling reason to go out and vote in August," he said.

Thornburgh acknowledged the GOP gubernatorial contest "never really caught fire," but he added, "There was very little reason for Democrats to go to the polls."

State GOP Chairman Tim Shallenburger attributed some of the low turnout to the lack of television advertising. He said even the few candidates who had TV ads didn't broadcast them in the Joplin, Mo., market, which covers southeast Kansas, where Shallenburger lives.

"I just assume we were not unique," he said.

Shallenburger also said heat was a factor. On Tuesday, some poll workers and voters said the same thing.

"I would tell people all day, 'It's election day,' and they would say, 'Have you been outside? It's 101 degrees,'" Shallenburger said.

The lowest turnout was in Shallenburger's home county of Cherokee: Only 9 percent of 16,000 registered voters there participated.

Comanche County had the best turnout, approaching 56 percent of its 1,200 voters. County Clerk Alice Smith noted its ballot included a proposal to impose a small property tax increase to finance economic development programs. It was rejected by 75 percent of the voters.

"People wanted to state their opinion," Smith said.


ksknowall 11 years, 10 months ago

The heat was secondary to the low turnout.

The D's & R's have done the job of making the voters completely apathetic - this is so sad.

Your only hope for change is to vote libertarian - the only party that are out here for the people.

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