Douglas County images from 2008 and the excitement of the presidential election are vivid for those who follow politics.
Deadline: Voter Registration
Oct. 18 — a week from Monday — is the deadline to register to vote to be eligible to participate in the Nov. 2 general election. The Douglas County Clerk’s office, 1100 Mass., will be open until 7 p.m. that day to handle registrations. Advance voting begins Wednesday. In-person ballots can be cast at the courthouse. Election officials will also begin mailing requested ballots that day.
For more information visit, douglascountyelections.com.
One night in February hundreds of people stood out in lines in the rain and cold just to get into Democratic caucus sites.
Residents attended political rallies in the region, and students were often in a frenzy on the Kansas University campus.
Douglas County was one of only three counties in Republican-leaning Kansas to support Barack Obama over John McCain for president, and a small celebration broke out on Massachusetts Street late in the evening after the election.
Two years later, with the Nov. 2 midterm election looming, much of that political enthusiasm in Lawrence has faded — and not simply from two years ago.
“In a presidential year, there’s always more enthusiasm and more turnout than a gubernatorial year,” Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said. “We have noticed a little less activity than we’ve actually seen in other gubernatorial election years.”
Shew said last week his office only had 1,900 requests for advance-voting ballots they will begin to mail out Wednesday. That’s less than half of the 4,000 ballots requested on the first day of advance voting in 2006.
Emma Halling, president of the KU Young Democrats, said she has noticed less interest in the election from younger voters and students on campus as her group has tried to put on political events.
“People aren’t seeing it as much in the media. You don’t have one over-reaching nationwide campaign like the Obama campaign that gets everybody out on their feet,” said Halling, an Elkhart, Ind., freshman. “It’s kind of harder to get people out and because they don’t know the candidates names as much especially.”
Don Haider-Markel, a KU political science professor, said it’s typical for enthusiasm in a midterm election to drop significantly from a presidential election year. This year might feel like a larger drop, especially for Democrats because they had so much momentum in 2006, President Bush’s last midterm election.
“One could argue that for Democrats especially they’re at about their normal midterm election enthusiasm level,” he said.
Nationally, the political story seems to be if Republicans can gain enough seats to take back control of the House, and maybe the Senate. Voter anger seems to be an advantage of Republicans, Haider-Markel said.
And Bill Benso, a member of the Douglas County Republican Party’s executive committee, said some of that is showing up here as well.
“There’s just kind of a general angst about the current state of the economy,” he said.
But he says this type of enthusiasm is not getting as much attention because not as many KU students are involved like in 2008.
Shew said it can be frustrating to have less political enthusiasm during nonpresidential election years, especially when local and state offices are at stake.
“For the races that are involved and the issues that are involved, we should have the same amount of enthusiasm as we had two years ago,” Shew said. “In a perfect world.”