Proposition 1 ballots coming in at ‘impressive’ rate; county clerk says turnout could exceed 45 percent

photo by: Nick Krug

A stack of mail-in Proposition 1 ballots sits at the Douglas County Courthouse on Monday, May 7, 2018.

With about 25 percent of the 63,000 Proposition 1 mail-in ballots already returned, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew is adjusting his voter turnout estimate.

“It’s been a pretty impressive turnout,” Shew said. “We have had more than 15,000 returned as of Friday.”

If voters approve Proposition 1, they would authorize a countywide half-cent sales tax increase. The estimated $9.8 million that the tax would raise annually would fund a $44 million expansion of the county jail, an $11 million behavioral health campus, $5.1 million in additional behavioral health services and $1 million of the $6.1 million needed annually for increased jail operational costs.

The referendum ballots were mailed April 24 and must be returned to the county clerk’s office by noon May 15 to be counted.

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence resident Alice Weis displays her signed and sealed Proposition 1 ballot to an attendant behind the counter at the county clerk's office before casting it in the ballot box at the Douglas County Courthouse on Monday, May 7, 2018.

Shew estimated about a 35 percent turnout before the ballots were sent to registered voters. His estimate was based on participation in the last two bond referendums for Lawrence Public Schools. He now expects to surpass that percentage by the middle of the week and predicts that the turnout could exceed 45 percent.

In past mail-in referendums, a large number of mail-in ballots were returned early and then the number tapered off before a late surge, Shew said. With Proposition 1, the clerk’s office is seeing daily numbers remain steady.

“We are way ahead of both school mail-in ballots,” he said. “The first big day in last year’s school election, we had 3,600 ballots returned. This time, we got 5,000. It’s trending that way. We’re getting about 1,000 more daily (than in school bond elections).”

Shew said voters were also taking advantage of the opportunity to drop off ballots at the clerk’s office in the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., and at the Douglas County treasurer’s satellite offices at 2000 W. 31st St., Suite B, and the Dillons store at 3000 W. Sixth St. There is also a dropoff box for ballots on the south side of the courthouse.

The ballots will be counted once voting ends at noon on May 15, Shew said.

“It will take some time,” he said. “We could be on track to have close to 30,000 ballots. We have never had anything like that for a mail-in ballot. We should have results late in the afternoon or early evening.”