Archive for Friday, October 24, 2008

Advance voting grows in state

October 24, 2008


— Nathan Jones travels to job sites across northeast Kansas as a security officer. His regular shift - from 11:15 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. - can become an issue when he wants to vote on Election Day.

That led the 38-year-old Topeka resident to cast an advance ballot Thursday. That made him part of a statewide surge in advance voting.

Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh believes 30 percent or more of Kansas voters could cast ballots before Nov. 4, up from 20 percent in the 2004 presidential election. In some places, particularly Johnson County, the percentage is likely to be higher.

The hard-fought presidential race is one reason, as is increased voter awareness of the option. Another is increased efforts by the Democratic and Republican parties and their candidates to push advance voting.

Kansas has allowed absentee voting for decades and adopted advance voting in 1996, allowing any voter to request a ballot in advance and mail it in. Ballots count if they arrive before polls close on Election Day.

This year, counties could begin mailing out ballots Oct. 15. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 31 states allow some form of advance voting, including California, Texas and Florida. Missouri does not.

Thornburgh said election officers in Kansas' 105 counties have received more than 228,000 applications for advance ballots - about 50 percent more than during the 2004 general election season.

In Douglas County, Clerk Jamie Shew said about 400 people a day have been stopping at the courthouse in Lawrence to cast advance ballots. He expects this year's advance voting to top the 10,000 cast in 2004.

Shew sees advance voting as an attractive convenience for Douglas County residents who commute to Johnson County or Topeka.

It's especially popular in Johnson County, which is Kansas' most populous county and has more than 344,000 registered voters. About 13,000 Johnson County voters cast advance ballots at four sites Tuesday and Wednesday.


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