Archive for Saturday, January 20, 2007

Voting advance

Making advance voting more convenient could have a positive impact on voter participation.

January 20, 2007

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Election Day isn't what it used to be, and state officials would be smart to acknowledge that fact and try harder to accommodate eligible voters.

This week, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew appeared before a Kansas House committee to support a bill that would allow him and other county election officials to set up satellite locations for advance voting. Currently, only counties with 250,000 residents or more - only Johnson and Sedgwick counties qualify - can set up satellite locations. In all other counties, advance voting can only be done by mail or by coming in person to the county courthouse.

Advance voting is becoming increasingly popular with state residents who find it more convenient to vote on their own schedule. As an example of how satellite advance voting might boost turnout, Shew pointed to a Dec. 22, 2005, election in Baldwin City to decide whether to allow Sunday liquor sales in the city. The timing of the election, so close to Christmas, probably held down voter participation. People who planned to be out of town for the holiday could have requested a mail ballot or traveled to Lawrence to vote in advance, but many more probably would have taken advantage of that option if it had been available in Baldwin City.

Statewide, 19.7 percent of those who voted in the November 2006 elections cast advance ballots. In Douglas County, 17.6 percent of November votes were by advance ballot. That number probably would increase if more locations for advance voting were available. Allowing more satellite stations for advance voting seems like a reasonable way to accommodate Kansas voters.

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