Secretary of state, GOP at odds over reason for high voter registration

A line of advance voters winds into the Douglas County Courthouse courtroom Friday afternoon. County Clerk Jamie Shew said that on Thursday alone more than 1,100 people voted. More than 14,000 people had already cast ballots or received a mail-in ballot as of Thursday evening, said Keith Campbell, the county's elections deputy.

? Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh on Friday predicted a record voter turnout in Kansas — caused in part by what he called the “Obama Effect.”

The candidacy of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has produced a surge in voter registration, especially among 18- to 30-year-olds, said Thornburgh, who is a Republican.

“We’re seeing that not only in the state of Kansas but we’re seeing that around the country as well,” he said.

Shortly after Thornburgh’s news conference, the Kansas Republican Party issued a news release seeking to refute Thornburgh’s statement.

“Despite what you might have heard from Ron Thornburgh’s press conference today crediting the ‘Obama Effect’ for increased voter interest in Kansas, below is the real story from Senator (Pat) Roberts’ campaign about the great progress we have made in Republican voter registration and turnout efforts this year,” the release from Kansas Republican Party executive director Christian Morgan said.

Thornburgh said in addition to the “Obama Effect,” the high voter turnout is being driven by political parties emphasizing early voting, hotly contested races, pleasant weather conditions and the souring economy.

“As I traveled the state of Kansas, and I’ve been in the coffee shops and the cafes, there is an angry electorate to a certain degree this time that perhaps we’ve not seen for a while,” he said.

He said he expected 1,364,810 voters, or 78 percent, of registered voters to visit the polls. That would be a record number of voters, although the 1992 election had a higher percentage turnout of registered voters, at 85 percent, he said.

With advance voting still going on, Thornburgh said he expects more than 300,000 Kansans to vote early, which would eclipse the 2004 record of 233,000.

Of the registered voters, Republicans make up 44 percent, Democrats, 27 percent, unaffiliated, 27 percent and the rest minor parties.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said the county should see percentage turnout in the high 70s.

“At this moment we are setting records on a daily basis in advance voting,” Shew said.

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