All systems go at county’s polling places

Douglas County voting clerk Elizabeth Ross, Lawrence, left, watches as supervising judges Don McDowd, Lawrence, and Nadine Larrick, Wellsville, remove a receipt of recorded votes from one of the new voting machines Thursday morning at Professional Moving and Storage warehouse. County voting officials tested the new electronic voting machines in preparation for Tuesday's primary.

Douglas County’s new voting machines passed their pre-election tests Thursday with high grades, County Clerk Jamie Shew said.

“There were no problems. It went very well,” he said. “Everything is now sealed, secured and ready for delivery.”

The machines will be used by voters for the first time during Tuesday’s primary election. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

If there should be machine problems, teams of people trained to deal with them will be scattered at locations throughout the county to respond, Shew said.

In May, the county took delivery of 160 machines. On Election Day voters will mark paper ballots as they have in the past. The difference in the machines comes in the way the votes are electronically tabulated. Some machines allow people with disabilities to vote without assistance.

The only county primary contests are for clerk in Wakarusa and Palmyra townships. But there are party primaries for several state offices and the 3rd Congressional District for Republican voters. Precinct committee candidates also will be on the ballot, and Eudora voters will decide a referendum on a $3.8 million swimming pool and recreation center.

Because of the different jurisdictions for precinct committees, townships and other positions, there are well more than 100 different ballots being distributed in the county. Still, this primary will be a good time for seeing how well the voting machines work, Shew said.


The county has a new Web site that contains information about voting and other features. One feature allows voters to enter their names and see voter registration information and where they are supposed to vote.

“From a ballot issue, it is probably one of the more complex elections that we run,” he said. “But we won’t have the same (voter) turnout that we’d have here during a general election.”

Shew wouldn’t predict what time the primary votes will be counted Tuesday night, but he expects voting tallies to come more quickly than in past years because of the new machines.

Since July 12 the clerk’s office has been accepting advance voting ballots by mail and from those voting in person at the courthouse. By the end of the day Thursday, 693 ballots had been turned in, Shew said.

The clerk’s office will be open from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, the final day for advance voting.

There are 74,028 registered voters in the county: Republicans, 24,274; Democrats, 22,792; unaffiliated, 26,142; Libertarians, 725 and Reform Party, 95.

As it did in 2004, the Kansas Democratic Party has opened its primary election to unaffiliated voters. That means registered voters who have not declared a party affiliation can cast ballots in Democratic contests. The Republican Party is keeping its primary closed to unaffiliated voters.