Don’t let the new voter identification law or any other excuse keep you away from the polls today.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach has predicted a dismal 18 percent statewide turnout for today’s primary election. That’s well below the turnout in two previous presidential election years: 30 percent in 2004 and 22.45 in 2008. The low turnout isn’t related to the new requirement that voters show a photo ID at the polls today, according to Kobach, who vigorously supported that legislation to address voter fraud in Kansas. Rather, he said, it’s because there aren’t enough interesting, competitive races on the ballot.
On the contrary, the decisions made by voters in today’s primary election could determine the course of state government for a generation. Although Kobach said Kansas House and Senate races don’t usually drive voters to the polls, this year should be an exception to that rule. In many areas, Republican voters will face clear choices between moderate and conservative candidates who have pledged to take the state in significantly different directions. Of particular focus are seats in the Kansas Senate, which are being hotly contested across the state because a shift of three to four seats could end the majority coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats and turn that majority over to conservative Republican legislators who will align themselves with like-minded officials in the Kansas House and the governor’s office.
All three Kansas Senate seats that reach into Lawrence have contested Republican primaries. In all three districts, the winners will face incumbent Democratic senators in the general election. Democrats also have an interesting primary contest for the 2nd Congressional District, which, after redistricting, includes all of Douglas County.
It’s true that most voters in Lawrence will only have one contested race on their election ballots, but that doesn’t mean those races aren’t important. Today’s election is a great opportunity to see how the new voter ID requirement at the polls is working and clear up any questions about ID or in what legislative district you live after redistricting. As County Clerk Jamie Shew pointed out, even people who are uncertain about the kind of ID they need or where they should vote should head to the polls anyway. At worst, he said, voters will be required to cast provisional ballots and present additional information later.
Like all elections, today’s primary is an important vote, and, like always, our right to vote is both a blessing and a civic duty. Perhaps the best reason to go to the polls today? Because we can.