Progress 2007 Behind the scenes

Student voting sparse during April 3 election

April 21, 2007


Kansas University has a strong presence in Lawrence with its nearly 30,000 students, but their presence lags on election days.

Burge Union is the voting place for Precinct 10, which covers much of campus, including most of the residence halls, and it has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the city.

"In the primary, I think we had about 14 people come out of Precinct 10," Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said.

That number dropped to 12 voters in the April 3 election.

The phenomenon extends beyond the campus boundaries.

Turnout in the five precincts with the highest percentage of registered voters between 18 and 24 years old typically falls well below the countywide average in local city and school board elections.

In 2005, the countywide turnout was 38.5 percent, but less than 23 percent of voters turned out near campus. Two years earlier, 13 percent voted near campus, compared with 33 percent turnout overall.


DaveR 11 years ago

The last few years I've been living in Maryland, but by chance had a week's homestay in Iola the week of the elections. On Wednesday I was floored to hear about the "election" in the Topeka paper.

Have my native Kansans gone nuts? How did you get suckered into these phony elections?

The only reason for a municipal election on any other day than the first Tuesday in November is to delibertately suppress turnout in order to manipulate the outcome. And it's easily done. A bit of money, a bit of muscle & any decent candidate can get enough of his family & friends to the polls to win.

On April 3, this happened in Iola. My family was involved with one of the candidates for public office. They all went out & voted, but he lost. Turns out his opponent had a few more warm bodies. The majority of Iolans didn't know there was an election.

Out here in Harford County, Maryland, I voted in the elections of 2004 & 2006, but, oddly enough, there were no local candidates on either ballot. Okay, I said to myself, there's going to be some kind of gim-crack local election, and I'm going to be ready for it.

And I sure was. I woke up one Wednesday morning to hear the radio say there had been an election the previous day. I didn't see a sign of it. So far as I can tell, almost no one else did, either.

Out in Santa Fe, New Mexico, some 15 years ago there was a special election, on a special day, to increase the sales tax to establish & fund a municipal bus route. The organizers crafted a very nice proposal with oodles of money expressly earmarked for a bus line. It passed overwhemingly, but with very light turnout.

But the city fathers didn't see it that way. No sooner than the special tax money had been raised, than they took the majority of it for their own special projects - which was flatly prohibited by the proposal itself. To this day they have never fully funded the bus system.

When one of the councilmen was asked how he justified what amounted to outright theft (the buses in Santa Fe, which I took every day for two years, were a ramshackle, broken-down mess), he had a sharp reply:

He had run, and won, in a true general election. An election where a large fraction of eligible voters had turned out. His plurality was several times that for the bus proposal. And this was true. I saw a Santa Fe municipal election. They're very noisy, very lively, hard fought affairs.

So, he said, should the Santa Fe city council listen to the handful of voters who voted for buses, or the much larger number of people who voted for them to manage things in general? Doesn't take a rocket scientist to answer that.

So stop whining about turnout. If two such elections on non-standard Tuesdays in some other month than November come & go & turnout is non-existent, that should be enough. Move the election back to the first Tuesday in November, and keep it there.

Sigmund 11 years ago

Stupidest post ever.

Elections in Kansas for City Commissions and local school boards are set by State Law and haven't changed significantly. Perhaps the law is different in Maryland.

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