Sunday looked more like a busy weekday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., as Lawrence residents flocked to the polls for advance voting ahead of Monday and Tuesday’s anticipated snow storm.
“Worried about the weather,” said Aline Hoey of her reason for advance voting in Tuesday’s primary election for Lawrence City Commission seats. Hoey doesn’t typically advance vote but had seen several social media postings about extended hours at the courthouse Sunday and took advantage.
County election officials said they would make every effort to ensure all polling places in Lawrence are accessible for Tuesday’s primary election in Lawrence. But if some polling places become inaccessible due to snow, County Clerk Jamie Shew said voters will be allowed to cast provisional ballots at other polling places.
Voters may also cast advance ballots at the courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., from 8 a.m. until noon today. Shew reported that more than 300 people cast advance ballots on Saturday — more than all the advance ballots in the previous two weeks combined — and another 1,000 people voted on Sunday.
Douglas County courthouse offices will be open both Monday and Tuesday, although some offices may close early, depending on weather conditions, county administrator Craig Weinaug said.
Weinaug said the decision to open courthouse offices Monday came after a change in the weather forecast. Initially, forecasts were calling for ice and sleet, to be followed by more snow. The most recent forecast, he said, calls for snow only. And while the total accumulation may be similar to Thursday’s storm, he said the next round is expected to be spread out over a longer period.
Some nonessential offices may close early in the day, depending on the weather and the volume of business they are doing, Weinaug said. But in that case, some workers may be asked to help out with Tuesday’s primary election.
Shew said one of the biggest challenges his office faces is delivering polling equipment and ballots to all the polling places, which normally would have been done Friday but had to be postponed because of last week’s storm.
Shew said the office has a number of contingency plans in place to deal with the weather, one of which may be to deliver only the polling booths and ballots to the various polling places and to do all of the vote tabulation at the courthouse.
The only issue on Tuesday’s ballot is a primary race for three seats on the Lawrence City Commission. Since all commissioners are elected at-large, all ballots will be the same for every polling place. For that reason, Shew said, if a voter’s polling place becomes inaccessible, he or she can cast a provisional ballot at any other polling place.
Eleven candidates are running for three seats on the City Commission. Lawrence voters can mark their ballots for up to three of those candidates. The top six will advance to the April 2 general election.
No matter how the snow falls, Tuesday’s election will go on, Shew said, as there is no state provision to postpone or delay such an election.
Shew said his office is keeping residents updated via social media and closely following the weather.