Tuesday’s election turnout in Douglas County tops 21 percent

Jamie Shew, Douglas County Clerk

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew had a two-word response to the turnout in this year’s municipal and school board elections.

“I’m pleased,” he said.

When the final precinct votes were counted Tuesday, 16,206 Douglas County registered voters had cast ballots in city and school board contests in Lawrence, Baldwin City, Eudora and Lecompton, plus three sales tax issues in Lawrence. Turnout was 21.88 percent, Shew said. That compares with the 11,213 voters who cast ballots in the 2015 city and county springtime elections, he said.

The increase was driven by a significant spike in advance voting numbers. The county spent $27,000 to send advance mail-in ballots to county voters. Shew said that paid off with a 10-fold increase in ballots.

More than 4,900 advance ballots had been returned to the clerk’s office as of Tuesday, Shew said. That compared with a total of 400 returned in 2015, he said.

“It absolutely made a difference,” Shew said of the mailer. “This afternoon, activity at the polling sites looked much like it did two years ago, so much of the difference was due to the mailer.”

There are still ballots to be counted. All mail-in advance ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted if they arrive at the clerk’s office by Friday, Shew said. In addition, the “significant” number of mail-in ballots dropped off at polling sites will also be counted, he said.

Shew said he lobbied for the Kansas Legislature to allow the counting of mail-in ballots until the Friday after the election because the clerk’s office was getting many ballots on the day after the election in recent years.

This is also the first time that city/school board elections have been contested in November after an August primary.

“There’s now three months between the primary and general election,” Shew said. “That gives the campaigns more time to get traction with voters.”