Editorial: Every single vote matters

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

There is much at stake in Tuesday’s election from control of Congress to leadership of the state of Kansas. Strong turnout should be a no-brainer.

Advance voting totals from the Douglas County Clerk’s office indicate as much. Preliminary numbers show the county could set a record for early voting, County Clerk Jamie Shew said. Generally, such records are set during presidential election years, so to see such strong numbers for a midterm election is encouraging.

Perhaps interest reflects the competitiveness of the races this year. Kansas has become one of the reddest of red states. Republicans hold every statewide office, all five seats in Congress, both Senate seats and overwhelming majorities in the state House and state Senate.

Such one-party dominance can discourage voting. But Kansas Democrats have their best chance in years to flip those numbers thanks to a strong lineup of moderate candidates and an electorate divided over President Donald Trump.

It starts with the governor’s race where Democrat Laura Kelly, a moderate state senator from Topeka, is in a statistical dead heat with Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a conservative firebrand who embraces Trump. An Ipsos Poll last week gave Kelly a 43 percent to 41 percent lead.

In the race for the Second Congressional District, polling by the New York Times shows Democrat Paul Davis, a former Kansas legislator who ran for governor in 2014, with a 41 percent to 37 percent lead over Republican Steve Watkins, a political newcomer whom Trump endorsed recently at a Topeka rally. In the neighboring Third Congressional District, Democratic newcomer Sharice Davids now has a double-digit lead on incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder, who also has Trump’s endorsement.

Finally, there is the election for Kansas secretary of state, a seat Republicans have held for the past 68 years. That fact alone makes Republican state Rep. Scott Schwab the favorite. But Schwab has hurdles to overcome. First, he has hitched his wagon to Kobach, easily the most polarizing candidate on the ballot, by indicating he will continue most of Kobach’s policies as secretary of state. Second, he faces a strong and well-financed Democratic candidate in former Google and Uber executive Brian McClendon, who has said he will reverse much of what Kobach has done in the office.

Douglas County voters must also decide whether to approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase to fund the construction and operation of a mental health campus. The campus would include a 20,000-square-foot crisis center, transitional housing for those with behavioral health issues and funding for new mental health services. Last May, voters rejected a half-cent sales tax that would have funded the mental health campus as well as a $44 million Douglas County Jail expansion.

All of the aforementioned races are so close, turnout almost assuredly will be the determining factor. If polling is accurate, many of the races will be decided by 1 percent or less. Simply put, every vote matters. Make sure to cast yours Tuesday if you haven’t already.


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