Sound Off: Who is paying for the polls that are open during the pre-voting period and why? Why isn’t Election Day good enough?
According to Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew, advance voting has not added to the cost of elections in Douglas County. It only involves reallocation of resources. All election costs are part of the county’s election budget, including advance voting. The proportion of the election budget that goes for advance voting has increased in recent election cycles as more people opt to vote in advance. In addition, Shew said, it has become more difficult to find staffing for polling places on Election Day and more facilities have become resistant to being used as polling places. Advance and absentee voting have long been allowed in Kansas for voters who are away on Election Day. That includes college students, military personnel and anyone else who, for whatever reason, would be unavailable on Election Day to cast a ballot in their home precinct. Shew noted that in 2004, there were 9,000 advance ballots cast in Douglas County. In 2008, that grew to 19,000, or 35 percent of all the ballots cast in the county. Of those, 10,000 ballots were cast at the county courthouse, which overloaded resources at that facility. So the office ended up being under-resourced for advance voting and over-resourced for Election Day. As a result, Shew said he reallocated resources for this election cycle to meet the anticipated demand. Shew said there is no indication that advance voting will decrease in the future. Based on voter requests, he expects it will continue to increase.