Douglas County clerk predicts record midterm turnout
photo by: Elvyn Jones
Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew is predicting a record-breaking midterm turnout after all the votes are cast Tuesday, but he admits he doesn’t know what the large number of votes cast in advance will mean for traditional election day voting.
County residents crowded the first- and second-floor rotunda areas of the Douglas County Courthouse all morning Monday to cast in-person advance general election ballots before the noon deadline to vote in that manner. About 20 minutes before noon, Shew estimated 1,000 people had voted at the courthouse on Monday.
“We had 9,000 in-person ballots after Saturday,” he said. “We’re probably close to 10,000 now. We sent out 13,000 mail-in ballots. and 9,000 have already been returned.”
Shew now expects about 21,000 ballots will be cast through in-person and mail-in advance voting. That would be a record for a midterm and just shy of the 22,000 cast in the 2016 presidential election year. He was curious to see what the large number of residents taking advantage of advance voting would mean for traditional Election Day turnout at polling sites. Boding well for continued strong turnout were the many residents voting through advance ballots who hadn’t voted since the 2008 presidential election year, he said. On the other hand, 37 percent of this year’s advance ballots were cast by residents who voted at polling sites in the past, which is an indication that voters are becoming more comfortable with casting their ballots in non-traditional ways, Shew said.
Pressed for a total turnout percentage, Shew estimated that about 45,000 of the county’s 80,000 registered voters would vote in the general election, breaking the 2014 midterm turnout record of 39,000. By comparison, more than 50,000 voters have turned out in recent presidential election years, he said.
Whatever the turnout, Shew said the clerk’s office is ready, along with the 500 temporary poll workers it hired and the new voting system it bought last summer.
It will be at least 7:30 p.m. Tuesday before the first advance voting numbers are released, Shew said. Polling sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but those in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote, Shew said. Lines at closing time could delay tallies, though the 6 p.m. University of Kansas men’s basketball game against Michigan State could thin numbers, he said.
Kansas law requires that registered voters present a government-issued photo ID before receiving an official ballot, Shew said. However, residents without the required ID will be given a provisional ballot and instructions on how to make their vote count, he said.
Shew also reminds those who haven’t yet returned mail-in ballots that they must be postmarked by Tuesday and in his office by Friday, Nov. 9, in order to be counted. Advance ballots dropped off before 7 p.m. on election day will also be counted, Shew said. Ballots can be dropped off at the clerk’s office, in the dropbox in the parking lot south of the courthouse or at the Douglas County treasurer’s two satellite offices at 2000 West 31st St., Suite B, and the Dillons Store at 3000 W. Sixth St.
For more voter information, visit the Douglas County Clerk’s Office website at douglascountyks.org/depts/voting-and-elections.