Douglas County Clerk’s Office hopes ‘I’m Voting’ campaign will increase turnout

Donetta Foster visited the Douglas County Courthouse on Tuesday to turn in paperwork needed to secure an advance ballot for this year’s general election for her 85-year-old father, Donald Fowler Sr.

Before leaving the window of the Douglas County Clerk’s Office, the Lawrence woman picked up an “I’m Voting” window poster and two informational handouts the office is distributing this election cycle to encourage registration and voting.

Advance voting starts Oct. 19., and the posters and handouts Foster picked up — and the mailers, social media posts and free yard signs with the same message that Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew’s office will soon offer — are part of an effort to increase turnout.

“To me, much of what people hear about voting the past few years has been negative — ‘don’t do this, do this, if you don’t have this then you don’t get to vote,'” he said. “I wanted to do something that would be positive. The message is that voting is a positive, clear and empowering action.”

Shew used the “I’m Voting” logo on a few materials at his office in 2014, but expanded it to a full campaign for this year’s election cycle. He said he hopes Fowler and others with the posters will help spread the message by taking photos and posting them on Facebook and other social media sites.

“I’m hoping to see a lot of creative photos that showcase Douglas County with the positive message,” he said.

One part of the campaign involved sending brochures to 36,000 county households with information on in-person advance voting sites and the dates they will be open, two applications for mail-in advance ballots and a reminder that a current, valid, photo identification is needed to cast a ballot at the polls on Election Day. Shew said as of early Monday afternoon, 5,000 applications for mail-in advance ballots had been returned to the clerk’s office. That number continued to grow throughout the afternoon as a steady stream of county residents saved a stamp by hand-delivering applications.

When the first-floor courthouse lobby briefly filled with residents, Shew said it was gratifying to see people pointed toward the window of the clerk’s office and not toward the Douglas County Treasurer’s Office on the other side of lobby as is normally the case.

There will be steady walk-up business at the clerk’s office before the registration deadline at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Shew said. Lines will re-appear soon after that as county residents cast in-person advance ballots in the courthouse lobby starting Oct. 19, he said.

In 2008, before the Kansas Legislature passed a bill allowing the state’s county clerks to establish satellite in-person advance voting sites, the lines the week before Election Day stretched out the door of the courthouse to the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center to the east.

?”That has become a lot more manageable since we were allowed to have satellite polling sites in the city and in Baldwin, Eudora and Lecompton,” he said.

Although the voter registration deadline is Tuesday, Shew said his office would continue to work through Election Day with county residents who attempted to register before the deadline but did not have the state-required proof of citizenship. His office could provide financial help for county residents attempting to acquire birth certificates from out-of-state locations, he said.

Shew said he hopes his efforts will motivate as many Douglas County residents as possible to go to the polls.

“President Lyndon Johnson said voting was the most fundamental freedom in our democracy,” he said. “It’s the foundation on which everything else is built.”

Douglas County in-person advance voting sites

• Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Oct. 19 to Oct. 21; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 24 to Oct. 28; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 31 to Nov. 4; 8 a.m. to noon, Nov. 7

• Douglas County Fairgrounds Building 21, 2120 Harper St.: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 31 to Nov. 4

• University of Kansas Sabatini Multicultural Resource Center, 1299 Oread Ave.: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 31 to Nov. 4

• Golf Course Superintendents Association, 1421 Research Park Drive: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 31 to Nov. 4

• Baldwin City Fire Department, 610 High St.; Eudora City Hall, 4 E. Seventh St.; Lecompton City Hall, 327 Elmore St.; and the Douglas County Courthouse: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5.