Lawrence voters will play pivotal role in races

Chief election official hopes turnout will be better than record low

How to register

To find out how to register to vote, contact the Douglas County Elections Division of the Clerk’s Office at 832-5267 or click on its Web site at

The primary elections are little more than six weeks away, and Lawrence voters will play a crucial role in several races.

So, if you’re wanting to vote in the Aug. 5 primary and aren’t a registered voter, you have until July 21 to register.

Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, the state’s chief election official, said he hopes turnout will surpass the record low of 2006 when 18 percent of the state’s registered voters showed up at the polls for the primaries. That anemic turnout was blamed on a lack of contested races and triple-digit temperatures.

Since then, however, voter interest has increased because of the presidential nominating races.

“The indicator I would look at, at this point, is that throughout the nation we saw heavy turnout in primaries for the presidential nomination, both at the caucus sites and primaries – and that’s encouraging to me,” Thornburgh said.

“But ultimately what determines whether or not you are going to have a high voter turnout is a highly contested race,” he said.

In February, the Kansas Democratic Party caucuses supported Barack Obama by an almost 3-1 margin, while the Kansas Republican Party voters favored Mike Huckabee over presumptive GOP nominee John McCain in their primary.

In the upcoming August contests, Lawrence Democrats will chose between Jim Slattery and Lee Jones to run against U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., in November. Libertarian Randall Hodgkinson will also be on the November ballot.

And Republicans in Lawrence will help set the field in two U.S. House races.

In the 3rd Congressional District, which includes east Lawrence, GOP voters will select between Nick Jordan and Paul Showen to go against U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Lenexa. Libertarian Joe Bellis is also running. In the 2nd congressional district, which includes west Lawrence, Jim Ryun faces Lynn Jenkins for the right to take on U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Topeka. Libertarian Robert Gerrard will be on that general election ballot, too.

Lawrence Republicans also will select a nominee between Alan Detrich and Robert Meissner to face Democrat Carolyn Campbell for State Board of Education, District 4.

Advance voting in the primaries starts July 16. The Republican Party primary is closed to only registered Republican voters, while the Democratic Party primary will be open to Democrats and unaffiliated registered voters.

As of June 1, there were approximately 1,645,703 registered voters in Kansas. Republican registration stood at 739,070; unaffiliated at 448,745; and Democrats, 447,419. The remaining belonged to other minor parties.

But while officials believe voter interest may be up, those wanting to run for office continues to decline. In legislative races, four state senators face no opposition and 44 state House members will get a free ride to re-election.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher to get people to run for office,” Thornburgh said. “The consuming time of politics and quite frankly sometimes the ugly nature of politics; fewer and fewer people are willing to engage.”