Archive for Thursday, August 31, 2006

Low turnout prompts call for new primary date

Douglas County had 12.2 percent of registered voters cast ballots

August 31, 2006


— Described as "horrendous," Kansas' 18.2 percent voter turnout in the Aug. 1 primary may prompt a change in future primary election dates, officials said Wednesday.

"It's time to at least look at the date when Kansans cast their primary votes," said Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh. "We can't ignore the horrendous turnout from this last primary."

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius echoed his concern.

"I'm a big believer that democracy is not a spectator sport, and we need people to be engaged and be involved because these decisions are very critical," Sebelius said.

Thornburgh, Sebelius and Eric Rucker, who is Atty. Gen. Phill Kline's chief of staff, met as the State Board of Canvassers. The board certified the results of the Aug. 1 primary.

The primaries saw 298,972 of 1,646,987 registered voters cast ballots. The 18.2 percent participation rate was far below the previous record low of 26 percent in 2002.

Douglas County had the third-lowest county turnout in the state at 12.2 percent, which was possibly a record low for the county. Comanche County in southwest Kansas had the highest turnout with 56.3 percent, while Cherokee County in southeast Kansas had the lowest at 9 percent.

Thornburgh, a Republican, said his office would give serious consideration to recommending a change in the primary election date, which has been the first Tuesday in August for nearly a century.

Sebelius, a Democrat, said she would consider a different primary date because "Aug. 1 is not a great time to find people at home."

She said many Kansas families are trying to take vacation then before the start of the school year.

The campaign of Sebelius' challenger in the governor's race, Republican state Sen. Jim Barnett, of Emporia, said if the primary date is moved it should be set earlier.

Moving the date later in the year would put challengers who had contested primary elections at a disadvantage, according to Christian Morgan, Barnett's campaign manager.

Moving it later in the year, he said, gives challengers less time to raise campaign funds and switch gears from a primary election to a general election, he said.

Many political observers also believe low turnout favors conservative candidates whose supporters are more motivated to vote. But Morgan said that wasn't necessarily true.

"I don't think it's the golden rule that low turnout helps conservatives. Low turnout helps whoever works the hardest," he said.

Thornburgh said the low turnout on Aug. 1 was caused by the low number of contested races and lack of much television campaigning.

The Democratic Party had one contested statewide contest and four contested state House elections. Meanwhile, only one of the Republican Party candidates - Barnett - in the gubernatorial primary ran television ads.

Jamie Shew, Douglas County clerk, agreed that early August is not a good time to hold a primary because of vacations and the usually hot weather during that time period.

And Shew added that in Douglas County, the primary was held the week of the county fair, which reduced the number of people available to work in the election.

"We had trouble staffing the polls," Shew said.

In Lawrence, there were no contested state House primaries, which added to the low interest, Shew said.

In Eudora, where a swimming pool bond issue was on the ballot, voter turnout was 20 percent, slightly better than the state average.

Douglas County's 12.2 percent turnout was the lowest at least going back to the 1950s, Shew said.

Nationwide, states hold their primaries during a wide range of dates. In 2006, the Texas primary was March 7, while many states have primaries scheduled in mid- to late-September.

Sebelius said she hoped more Kansans would vote in the Nov. 7 general election, and that the state's advance voting law makes it easier for residents to cast ballots.

More than 17 percent of total votes were advance ballots in the primary, compared with 12.8 percent in 2004.


prioress 11 years, 9 months ago

This type of turnout is how 10% of the population (AKA the 'right wing base') controls state politics to the detriment of the other 90%. Wake up sheeple! Vote as if your life depended on it, because it does.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 9 months ago

If nothing is getting better why keep sending the same incumbents back to Washington D.C.?

They receive automatic $4000 annual raises. The longer they stay the larger their pension..whether they do a good job or not. This generous pension carries over to the spouse after the legislator is dead. They have great medical coverage which extends into their retirement plan and covers the spouse after the legislator has deceased. All of the above at taxpayer expense.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 9 months ago

I think the heatwave had something to do with it....i know for awhile there I was going to work and the store and that was it.

Frank Smith 11 years, 9 months ago

Although election day was insufferably hot, another reason for low turnout was lack of upticket choice. Democrats had a single statewide race, Secretary of State, a Fourth District congressional race, and a few primaries where incumbents easily prevailed. The Republicans didn't have a single moderate in the Governor's race, nor a choice of Attorney General where Philll was allowed to continue to channel John Ashcroft unchallenged. We might have had a better turnout if "None of the Above" was an available option. In the Secretary of State's race, Kay O'Connor proved that there aren't enough "Born Agains" even in a low turnout primary to overcome diagnosible psychosis. Eric Carter fooled more people than Kay, but not nearly enough. On a cooler day, John Bacon might have lost, instead of taking a plurality. Brad "The Carpetbagger" Patzer gave too many interviews to pull off the same stunt that his stealthy mother-in-law did four years ago. Last but not least, Connie "The Wicked Witch of the West" Morris couldn't even win her own county.

lunacydetector 11 years, 9 months ago

maybe people would vote if they knew they weren't going to get harrassed by the courts after the elections. everytime i vote, i get invited to do jury duty. that is a pain in the rear end, constantly calling everyday to make sure i know the day to attend.

i wonder if that might be the problem?

it's just like signing up for a contest at the mall. once they've got your name, they can start their phone harrassing.

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