Election update: How the big-ticket races are looking in Douglas County; Holland and Dove in dead heat

photo by: Ashley Golledge

A sign outside of the Carnegie Building encourages Lawrence residents to vote in the general election Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Updates from around Douglas County on Election Day:


9:35 p.m.

The race between Democrat Tom Holland and Republican Willie Dove for a state Senate seat is now a dead heat, but the incumbent Holland may have the advantage to hang on.

With new results coming in from both Douglas and Leavenworth counties, Holland holds just a 363 vote lead. But importantly, the Kansas Secretary of State’s website is showing that Leavenworth County — where Dove is from and is winning most of his votes — has completed its count. Douglas County — where Holland is winning most of his votes — still has returns to process.

That puts Holland in a position to hold the Senate seat, if he continues to win in his home county.


9:25 p.m.

When it comes to the big ticket races in Douglas County — president, U.S. House and U.S. Senate — two Democrats are faring better than their past counterparts. But, notably, one Republican involved in a tight race is faring better.

On the presidential ticket, there was little question that Joe Biden was going to win the Douglas County vote, given that Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 20 percentage points in the county. But it is still interesting to see how Biden and President Trump are faring compared with the 2016 election.

In short, the president is down and Biden is outperforming 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Biden currently has 73% of the vote in Douglas county. Clinton won 61% of the Douglas County vote in 2016. As for the president, Trump is at 25% currently, while he was just under 29% in 2016. Of course, that doesn’t mean Biden is set to win Kansas. Douglas County politics rarely follow the state’s trend. Trump is up 52% to 46% in the state currently.

Another Democrat that likely is happy with her Douglas County performance is Senate candidate Barbara Bollier. She is winning 72% of the vote in Douglas County currently. And she needs every vote she can get right now. Statewide, she is down 4 points to Republican Roger Marshall. Marshall is underperforming the last Republican Senate candidate, Jerry Moran, who won almost 35% of the Douglas County vote in 2016. But that is not necessarily surprising, as Bollier is considered a much more viable candidate than Patrick Wiesner, who ran against Moran.

The one Democrat who isn’t running as strongly in Douglas County is Michelle De La Isla, who is vying to win the U.S. House 2nd District seat. She is winning 67% of the Douglas County vote, but her Republican challenger, Jake LaTurner, is winning 30% of the vote. That is a far better showing for LaTurner than Republican Steve Watkins posted in Douglas County in 2018. Watkins garnered only 24% of the Douglas County vote. Of course, Watkins was running against Douglas County native Paul Davis, so it is not a surprise that De La Isla is underperforming Davis. But, surprising or not, it still may be important. Democrats need to win big in Douglas County if they want to win overall. Right now, De La Isla is down 6 percentage points with about 385 of the vote counted.


9 p.m.

One local race that has the potential to be close is the race for the state’s 2nd District Senate seat.

Baldwin City Democrat Tom Holland has about a six-point lead over conservative Republican legislator Willie Dove for Kansas Senate District No. 3. The district represents southern Lawrence, Baldwin City, Eudora and parts of Leavenworth County.

As early returns come in, Holland is racking up big margins of victory in Douglas County, but Dove, from Bonner Springs, is posting big returns from Leavenworth County. As it stands right now, Holland has a 51% to 49% lead overall, with 14 of the 54 precincts reporting.

Currently, Holland is winning 67% of the vote in Douglas County, while Dove is winning 63% in Leavenworth County. If that holds, Holland will have an edge, but could be in for a close race, which isn’t unusual for this district. In 2016, Holland held off a challenger by a 52% to 48% margin.


8:45 p.m.

With tons of advance ballots already counted in Douglas County, it is clear there aren’t many close races locally.

In one of the few contested local races, it appears likely that the 3rd District County Commission seat will be held by a Democrat for just the third time since 1928 — and the first since the 1970s.

Democrat Shannon Portillo has a lead of more than 5,000 votes over Republican Pam McDermott. The seat represents parts of west Lawrence and much of rural western Douglas County, which for years has been fertile Republican ground.

In the race for the 2nd District County Commission seat, which covers more of eastern Lawrence and Baldwin City and Eudora, Democrat Shannon Reid has a similar size lead of about 5,400 votes over Republican Brett LaRue, who has largely not campaigned this election season.

It is not clear when the last time the Douglas County Commission has been represented by three city of Lawrence residents, but if these results hold, that will be the case.

Other high profile races in the county — the sheriff, district attorney and most state legislative seats — aren’t too high profile this year. Democrats largely are running unopposed for those seats.

— By Chad Lawhorn


4:41 p.m.

At the Lied Center on Tuesday afternoon, supervising election judge Phillip Wrigley said he had been working elections since 2008, and that Tuesday’s turnout was “lower than it usually is” at that location.

“We’re prepared for an onslaught and we’ve gotten a trickle,” Wrigley said of workers at the site, which serves a precinct that includes only University of Kansas on-campus housing. There were 13 volunteers at the location, 1600 Stewart Drive, a higher number than Wrigley said he’s ever had on Election Day.

Wrigley guessed the seemingly lower Election Day turnout was due to increased advance voting. He also said there had been fewer voting drives on campus due to the pandemic, and that fewer students might have registered to vote in Douglas County. Douglas County election statistics showed that only 735 voters were registered in the campus-only precinct this year, a 22% decrease from the 947 registered voters during the 2016 general election.

At the Carnegie Building, 200 W. 9th St., supervising election judge James Dunn said the downtown site had seen a steady stream of voters throughout the day following a small morning rush. There were originally two check-in stations inside the building, Dunn said, but workers added a third following the rush.

Sarah Reynolds was exiting the Carnegie Building around 3 p.m. Tuesday with her 3-year-old daughter, Cecily Reynolds, and her 7-month-old son, Robbie Reynolds. She said she had been a little nervous to bring her children — thinking it might be crowded — but that they “really didn’t even come close to anyone.”

“They had everything really well spread out,” she said. “Distancing wasn’t an issue, so that was great.”

Reynolds said it was obvious there was an effort to spread everything out and put up barriers between the volunteers and the voters. She also appreciated the “future voter stickers,” which Cecily wore as she exited the building.

As of 3 p.m. more than 10,377 Douglas County residents had turned out for in-person voting on Election Day, according to the latest report from the county’s top election official.

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— By Lauren Fox


1:45 p.m.

By midmorning a little more than 6,000 voters had gone to the polls on Tuesday, according to the latest report from the county’s top election official.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew reported that voter turnout was standing at 57% countywide as of 10 a.m. on Election Day. Thus far, the bulk of voting has occurred by advance ballots that were turned in prior to election day. More than 40,000 advance ballots were received prior to election day, while 6,157 people had voted in person as of 10 a.m.

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When the two totals are combined, voter turnout checks in at 56.9% and growing. Polls are open until 7 p.m.

Douglas County certainly has a chance to break its recent record for voter turnout in a presidential election. In 2008, local turnout was 64%. More recently, the 2016 presidential election produced a turnout of 63%. The largest number of voters to ever vote in Douglas County was in that 2008 election, when about 54,500 cast a ballot. As of 10 a.m., the county was about 7,500 votes away from that record total.

— By Chad Lawhorn


11:45 a.m.

Whether it was their first time voting in a presidential election or their 20th, Douglas County voters were largely managing fine on Tuesday morning, despite all the worries that come with the pandemic era.

“It didn’t feel weird,” said Taylor Martin, a University of Kansas student who was voting in her first presidential election.

Martin, who voted at the First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway, said she originally was worried about lines, lots of people refusing to wear face masks and just general uneasiness while voting. Most of those worries ended up unfounded. She took a $3 Uber ride to the polls — the ride-sharing company is running an Election Day special — and lines were short and masks were aplenty at the polling place.

“It was really exciting,” Martin said. “I definitely didn’t want to miss out. You would feel guilty if you didn’t vote.”

Wiley Wilson also felt some excitement after casting his vote at the Union Pacific Depot in North Lawrence. But it wasn’t because of the newness of it all. Wilson is just days away from turning 94, and he’s been a regular voter, meaning this would be presidential election number 20 since he became eligible to vote.

“It isn’t like it used to be,” Wilson said of the voting process.

But he also said the process went fine for him. Voters, though, will notice several new elements to the process. Wearing a mask isn’t required to vote, but they are strongly encouraged and many polling sites had poll workers who had masks available for people who came to the polls without one.

Speaking of poll workers, there are more of them than normal. Several poll workers estimated that their locations had twice as much staffing as normal. First Presbyterian and the First Southern Baptist Church — two of the larger polling locations in the county — both had slightly more than a dozen poll workers, staff there estimated.

Some staff members are standing near the front door with a spray bottle of disinfectant in hand, frequently wiping down the entrance. Others are doing similar cleaning work on the actual polling booths.

As for waiting in line, there are markings on the floor for where to stand and plexiglass barriers separate voters from the poll workers taking their information. Poll workers reported some lines shortly after the polls opened at 7 a.m. Workers at First Southern Baptist Church, 4300 W. Sixth St., estimated about 50 people were in line at one time during the early part of voting. At Rev City Church near Seventh Street and Wakarusa Drive, poll workers estimated voting was occurring at a rate of about 75 people per hour in the early stages of voting, but had since fallen to about 60 people per hour.

Some locations were experiencing slower numbers. The polling site at the Checkers grocery store near 23rd and Louisiana streets had 32 voters after having been opened for just less than two hours. The polling place at the Douglas County Human Services Building, 2518 Ridge Court, had seen 57 voters by 9 a.m.

Expectations on how many people would show up for in-person voting were uncertain heading into Tuesday’s elections. Monday evening Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew announced that 41,436 ballots already had been cast ahead of Election Day, through either mail-in voting or in-person advance voting locations. That represented a full 50% of registered voters in Douglas County.

Some voted more enthusiastically than others. Tracy Stowe, who voted at the Rev City Church polling place, said she probably would have preferred to vote prior to Election Day, after having experienced the routine, which she said still seemed too close for comfort, at times.

Stowe also said her enthusiasm level wasn’t high for this election, and expressed concerns about the situation the country would be in regardless of who won the elections.

“This is one of those things I had to do,” Stowe said of her attitude on voting day.

Martin, the KU student, said she also had some concern about what happens next. While she wasn’t predicting mayhem in Lawrence, she noted that her sister, who lives in a dormitory, asked if she could spend the night at Martin’s off-campus home. Martin said she thought the possibility of a large number of people congregating on Massachusetts Street to either celebrate a victory or bemoan a loss was real.

“I wasn’t nervous about voting, but I am a little bit nervous about tonight,” she said.

Martin, though, said she was glad to have voted, and went into the polling place with a particular mindset. “Whatever is going on right now, I would like to change,” she said.

The veteran voter Wilson also had a firm belief heading to the polls.

“You have to vote to make your country great,” he said.

Polls are open until 7 p.m. today.

— By Chad Lawhorn

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