Reporting from the polls

photo by: Mike Yoder

Clara Holladay completes her mid-term election ballot Tuesday morning at Precinct 39, located at the Cider Gallery, 810 Pennsylvania St.

6:08 p.m.

Chatter about the police headquarters sales tax issue, via Chad Lawhorn:

I have been known to put the “un” in unscientific, especially on Election Day. I’ve spent almost two hours chatting with voters at various precincts across the city, particularly about their thoughts on the police headquarters sales tax issue. Talking with a few voters certainly doesn’t produce any scientific results, but I’ll share what I heard anyway.

In short, there are signs the city is really divided on the issue. The issue does not seem to be brimming with enthusiasm, but there are some voters supporting the sales tax despite being less than enthused. In total, I talked with nine voters, and had two who told me they voted for the sales tax, and I had five who said or either strongly indicated they voted against it. Two others didn’t say. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting comments.

•”It was not a clear cut issue, but I voted for it,” said Bill Blevins, who was voting at the American Legion along West Sixth Street. “I want other people to help pay for it. I felt like if we didn’t pass it, we would be put in a position where they would try to raise our property taxes for it.”

• “It was kind of mixed,” said a college-aged student voting at Presbyterian Manor off Kasold Drive who did not want to give her name. “I had a lot of college students tell me not to vote for it because they thought it needed to be better planned.”

• “I think the city has a lot more on its plate now than what it can pay for,” said Doug, a voter at Presbyterian Manor who did not want to give his last name. “They need to pay some things off before they start paying on a police station.” Doug specifically mentioned the Rock Chalk Park sports complex as an issue that gave him pause about the city’s finances.

• “I voted yes,” said Paul Calnon, who voted at the Cider Gallery in East Lawrence. “I think it had its issues, but on balance, I think yes was the best way to go.” Calnon said he did wish the city would have started its campaign for the sales tax earlier in order to give voters more time to consider the issue.

• “It was pretty clear cut for me. I don’t think they need one,” said Diana Lehmann, who was voting at the Senior Center in downtown. “I don’t like the idea of a new tax.” Lehmann said she supports the police department but wants the city to look for ways to use space it already has, and is urging city officials to be more budget conscious.

• “I don’t think it is going to pass,” said Amy Lee. “I really don’t like the regressive sales tax. I think they need a facility, but I’m not sure this was the way to do it.” A friend who was with Lee at the polls said she voted against the sales tax, and said she would have preferred the city propose a property tax increase. She said the fact the state charges sales tax on food made it difficult for her to support a sales tax.

• “My main thing was to come out and vote against Brownback,” said one unidentified voter at the Cider Gallery in East Lawrence. “I wasn’t really sure what was the best way to go on the police issue.” This voter may be the key to the election. If you can tell me how rank-and-file Democrats are thinking about the police sales tax, I think I can predict the outcome of this election. There are a lot of Democrats at the polls today in Lawrence.

How will people who are mainly focused on the governor and senate races view this sales tax? I have heard from some longtime Democrats who have expressed concern that Democrats don’t like to vote for a sales tax because they believe it has a disproportionate impact on the poor. But, I remember that a lot of Democrats in 2008 voted for sales taxes to support the public transit system and infrastructure improvements in the city. Sales taxes in this town can win Democrats over. Whether this one has, is the big question of the night.

5:56 p.m.

With an hour to go until polls close, there are reports of long lines at several sites around Lawrence.

But remember …

5:17 p.m.

Another report on turnout from J-W reporter Karen Dillon:

The hard-fought battles for Kansas governor and U.S. Senator were drawing large numbers of voters to the polls Tuesday, with many waiting in lines.

Clayton Barker, Kansas Republican Party executive director, said the political fight for governor and senator were reminiscent of the governor’s race in 1990.

“We haven’t seen a fight like this since Hayden-Finney,” he said.

As he spoke, people manning 30 phone banks were making late calls to voters around the state urging them to exercise their right to vote.

Barker and Joan Wagnon, Kansas Democratic Party chairwoman, said the turnout appeared to be heavy in many places across the state but there were few problems.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Clara Holladay completes her mid-term election ballot Tuesday morning at Precinct 39, located at the Cider Gallery, 810 Pennsylvania St.

Almost 230,000 Kansans cast ballots before the polls opened on Election Day, 10,000 of them in Douglas County.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach predicted that more than 50 percent of all registered voters, about 872,000 people, would vote Tuesday.

In Douglas County, voter turnout was at 34.8 percent by 2 p.m. Six Lawrence precincts had more than 45 percent turnout with five hours left before the polls closed.

Kobach spokeswoman Kay Curtis said total turnout might not be known until the end of the week.

Wagnon and Barker reported a smattering of complaints but said overall the election seemed to be going smoothly.

The biggest problems, they said, were a few voting machine glitches and not enough iPads to check in people, both of which resulted in delays and long lines.

4:03 p.m.

Notable turnout numbers, via Chad Lawhorn:

West Lawrence is coming out to vote today in large numbers. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew put together a report showing voter turnout totals as of 2 p.m., and six Lawrence precincts — five of them in West Lawrence — already had a more than 45 percent voter turnout, and that was with five hours left before the polls close.

Countywide, voter turnout was at 34.8 percent at 2 p.m. Vote totals are running ahead of the pace set in both the 2010 and 2006 elections.

Here’s a look at the six precincts that are leading the way thus far in voter turnout in Lawrence:

• Brandon Woods retirement center, 1501 Inverness: 55.3 percent;

• American Legion, 3408 W. Sixth Street: 51.5 percent

• Vintage Church: 1501 New Hampshire: 51.1 percent

• Pioneer Ridge retirement center: 47.4 percent

• Presbyterian Manor retirement center: 45.5 percent

• Golf Course Superintendent Association: 45.2 percent.

There are four precincts in the city that had voter turnout less than 20 percent as of 2 p.m. They are:

• KU Burge Union, 1601 Irving Hill Road: 5.6 percent

• Central United Methodist Church, 1501 Massachusetts: 19.7 percent

• Schwelger Elementary: 2201 Ousdahl: 19.8 percent

• United Way service center: 2518 Ridge Court: 19.8 percent

It is worth noting all four of those low-turnout precincts are east of Iowa Street. Longtime election-observers in Lawrence often have paid close attention to the east-west split of the vote in town. Whether the east-west split will make much difference in state races is uncertain, but some observers believe a strong West Lawrence turnout may bring out supporters for the police headquarters sales tax.

3:45 p.m.

Chad Lawhorn adds some insight into past votes on sales tax issues in Lawrence:

I’ve had my special Election Day intravenous drip of Mountain Dew, and I’m now on the job to cover today’s vote regarding the 0.2 percent sales tax to fund a new Lawrence police headquarters facility. In preparation of the returns this evening, I decided to do a little research on how special tax questions have fared in Lawrence over the years.

I could not remember the last time a tax issue — whether it be a sales tax, school bond election or other such measure — failed to win approval in Lawrence. I know the school district did lose at least one election in the 1990s when it was trying to gain approval to build a second high school.

Long story short, I’m still not certain when the last time a tax issue lost in Lawrence. I have easy access to election results dating back to 2003, and there hasn’t been a tax issue defeated in Lawrence since that time. Here’s a look:

• 2013 USD 497 $92.5 million bond issue: 72 percent yes.

• 2010 $18 million library bond issue: 55 percent yes.

• 2008 Infrastructure sales tax issue: 73 percent yes.

• 2008 Public transit sales tax issue: 70 percent yes.

• 2008 Public transit enhancement sales tax issue: 68 percent yes.

• 2005 USD 497 $54.1 million bond issue: 68 percent yes.

• 2005 USD 497 $8.9 million bond issue: 71 percent yes

• 2003 USD 497 $59 million bond issue: 55 percent yes

What any of this means for the vote on the 0.2 percent sales tax for police, is anybody’s guess. But there certainly has been an opposition movement in this election, which hasn’t always been the case in all the other elections. It may be interesting to keep these numbers in mind as we watch the returns come in tonight.

3:35 p.m.

Peter Hancock says the 2014 election may be remembered as the starting point for a new and novel kind “get-out-the-vote” tactic: threatening people with public humiliation if they don’t turn out to vote.

People who have received such messages have described them as “Orwellian” and complained that they are an invasion of privacy.

But another problem, it turns out, is that groups sending out those messages don’t always get their facts right.

Read more at Peter’s blog post.

1:05 p.m.

Nearly 230,000 Kansas voters had cast their ballots before the polls opened on Election Day.

The Kansas secretary of state’s office says that 114,690 mail-in ballots had been turned in by Tuesday morning, less than in 2010. Another 115,079 advance voters had gone to the polls, an increase from 2010.


The Lawrence Humane Society is having it own kind of Election Day special! Cast your vote, then give a pet a home forever!

12:10 p.m.

11:46 a.m.

Here are some specific numbers for Tuesday’s elections:
By 10:30 a.m., more than 8,754 people had voted in Douglas County, according to voter tabulations just released by Jameson Shew, Douglas County Clerk.
Before the polls opened, 10,086 of Douglas County’s 75,000 voters had voted in the days leading up to Tuesday.
In 2010 and in 2006, about 35,000 voters turned out. Shew is expecting possibly 45,000 voters today.

11:09 a.m.

The Journal-World’s Karen Dillon reports that Jameson Shew, Douglas County Clerk, said polling workers are issuing “a ton of provisional ballots today.” That’s because there is a high number of voters. In those situations, Shew said, “casual voters” forget to register, change addresses, etc.

Douglas County has 75,000 registered voters and normally the turnout is around 35,000. Shew said he is expecting the turnout to be about 45,000, which is more than 60 percent. In pre-Election Day voting, more than 10,000 had voted or 13 percent.

10:55 a.m.

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts hoped Kansas’ deep Republican roots would hold firm Tuesday as he sought to fend off a surprisingly staunch challenge from a suburban Kansas City businessman pledging to bring a nonpartisan voice to Washington.

Should Greg Orman defeat the three-term senator in one of the nation’s most unusual and potentially pivotal races, he would become Kansas’ first independent in the U.S. Senate. In fact, the state hasn’t elected anyone but Republicans to the office since 1932. Read more on the race for Kansas’ U.S. Senate seat.

Another great voting shot from Journal-World photographer Mike Yoder:

photo by: Mike Yoder

Voters cast their ballots early on Election Day at Checkers grocery store at 23rd and Louisiana in Lawrence.

9:45 a.m.

As polls opened across the state, the Kansas governor’s race remained close because of doubts about tax cuts enacted by legislators in 2012 and 2013 at Gov. Sam Brownback’s urging. The state has dropped its top personal income tax rate by 26 percent and exempted the owners of 191,000 businesses from income taxes altogether — and future cuts are promised. Read more by Associated Press writer John Hanna.

9:05 a.m.

8:35 a.m.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew reported that Precinct 49, Corpus Christi had been evacuated because of a fire alarm. “We will be back in as soon as we are all cleared,” Shew said in an email.
The precinct reopened within minutes; the alarm was caused by construction in the building, Shew said in an email.

8:25 a.m.

Bruce Balke of Eudora says the election machine at the fire station in Eudora at 20th and Church Streets is broken and polling workers are stacking the ballots to be counted later. He said he called the Douglas County Clerk’s office to report the machine outage.
Balke said he wished the poll attendants would have told him before he voted so he would have had the chance to come back later when the machine was fixed, as he wasn’t comfortable leaving his ballot when it hadn’t been counted.
“This is a tight race,” he said. “I just don’t know about that.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

Long lines formed early at the polling station at Checkers grocery store at 23rd and Louisiana.

Voting has started in Douglas County: Election Day is finally here! If you’re wondering where to cast your vote, you can find precinct maps and a sample ballot at the Douglas County Clerk Voting and Election site.

Check back throughout the day for updated information from the polls as the elections unfold. And check the Journal-World’s Elections 2014 site for updated stories from across the state.