County clerk likes idea of visual reminders to vote

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew saw an idea Tuesday that he wants to investigate as a way to boost voter turnout: special yard signs that say “Vote Today.”

The simple signs were numerous along Wakarusa Drive, Sixth Street and other major roads in West Lawrence. But they weren’t put out by Shew, the county’s chief election officer. They were placed by supporters of City Commission candidates Mike Dever and Rob Chestnut.

Shew said he thought the signs did a good job of reminding voters that today was the day to go to the polls.

“I thought that was a pretty neat idea,” Shew said. “Because they were new, they did a good job of attracting attention.”

Shew said if the county clerk’s office purchased such signs, it would be important to ensure that they were evenly distributed throughout the community. The signs seemed to be primarily on the west side of town.

Voter turnout for the entire county checked in at 18.9 percent. The turnout was the lowest in the last five April general elections. In 2005, when a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was on the ballot, turnout was 38.3 percent. Turnout for other years were 33 percent in 2003; 19.3 percent in 2001; and 23.6 percent in 1999.

Good prediction

The February primary ended up being a perfect predicator of how City Commission candidates would fare in the general election. All six candidates finished in the same order as they did in the primary.

If tradition holds, Dever’s first-place finish means his fellow commissioners will elect him to serve a one-year term as mayor in 2008. Chestnut’s second-place finish should net him a one-year term as mayor in 2009.

All the results are unofficial until Douglas County commissioners canvass the votes on Friday morning.

Proud mom

Maybe she was his good-luck charm. Top vote-winner Mike Dever had his mother, Marge Dever, with him at the Douglas County Courthouse to watch election returns. Marge Dever came to the event from her home in suburban Chicago. She said she was excited to watch her son do well in the election.

“I’m very proud of Michael,” she said. “I know he’s going to do great.”

“Yeah, she’s a little biased,” Mike Dever said.

Marge Dever also said she just enjoyed watching the political process. Her favorite television network is C-SPAN.

Faster results

The final vote totals were released at 9:05 p.m. Tuesday. Two years ago, the last numbers were reported at 12:30 a.m. the day after the election.

A new electronic voting system helped to expedite the process.

Voter comments

Voters had plenty on their minds as they went to the polls Tuesday. Here’s a quick look at several comments voters made as they exited the polls:

“Definitely Wal-Mart and the South Lawrence Trafficway route,” said Kristen Blosser, a Kansas University student who voted at Trinity Lutheran Church. “I think environmental issues are really important to me, and support for the East Lawrence neighborhood.”

Khabira Gruber, Lawrence, said candidates’ views on growth were among the issues that drove her decisions in the City Commission race.

“I voted based on issues about neighborhoods and issues about growth, minimum wage, the whole list of things,” Gruber said. “I like what Schauner and Highberger have done.”

Several voters on the west side of town said they were being driven to the polls by economic development issues.

“I’m looking to get a little bit more business into City Hall,” said Glen Davis, who voted at Holcom Recreation Center, 2700 W. 27th St.

Some said they were looking for a change in attitude.

“They waste so much money on consultant fees, and then they don’t get the answers they want, so they just ignore them,” said Shelley Ezell, who voted at Pioneer Ridge, 4851 Harvard Drive.

“I would like to see people who pay more attention to downtown and quit giving all the money to big box stores,” said Terri Wilson, who voted at New York School, 936 N.Y.

Another group of voters, though, said they were casting their votes with less information than they would like.

“I don’t know that I heard enough from any of them to really know where they stand on the issues,” said Michael Reid, who voted at the Clinton Parkway Assembly of God, 3200 Clinton Parkway.