Election Notebook: Morning turnout about 10%; voting closes at 7 p.m.
photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo
Check out our Election Notebook throughout the day and evening for the latest on news about today’s election. If history is any guide, local election results should be tallied and announced before 9 p.m. today. For more detailed information about the candidates in the Lawrence city and school races, check out our online voter guide, which has about 30 articles on the various candidates and issues.
Updated at 12:56 p.m. Tuesday
At about 10:30 a.m., voter turnout was at about 10%, according to numbers released by the Douglas County Clerk’s office.
Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said earlier in the day that he did not expect voter turnout in this year’s city/school elections to exceed the 23% turnout from the 2017 elections.
He also said voter turnout would vary widely throughout the county. The 10:30 a.m. numbers do show wide ranges of turnout. In Lawrence, the highest turnout locations have been:
• Precinct 33: Vintage Church, 1501 New Hampshire Street, 17.8%
• Precinct 2: Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont Street, 16.2%
• Precinct 49: Corpus Christi Catholic Church, 6001 Bob Billings Parkway, 15.4%
• Precinct 34: Haskell Indian Nations University, 2425 Choctaw Avenue, 14.4%
• Precinct 48: Pioneer Ridge Assisted Living, 4851 Harvard Road, 14.3%
The lowest turnout locations in Lawrence have been:
• Precinct 30.2 and 32: United Way Building, 2518 Ridge Court, 6.5%
• Precinct 4: USD 497 Administration Center, 110 McDonald Drive, 6.6%
• Precincts 25 and 26: Central United Methodist Church, 1501 Massachusetts, 6.9%
• Precincts 36 and 37: Douglas County Fairgrounds, 2120 Harper Street, 7.3%
• Precincts 8 & 40: Trinity Lutheran Church, 1245 New Hampshire, 7.5%
In other areas of the county, turnout in Eudora is coming in at 6% to 7% thus far, while in Baldwin City, turnout is closer to 10% to 11% early on.
Early signs are that voter turnout is light for today’s election. And it may get lighter as evening nears.
“It will be interesting with KU playing at 6 p.m.,” Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said this morning.
The men’s basketball team is playing its first game of the regular season, and it is a big one against powerhouse Duke. Shew has seen enough elections to know that KU basketball can play a role with voter turnout in Douglas County.
“Historically, the closer you get to the game, the voting drops off quite a bit,” Shew said. “This one is earlier in the evening than a lot of them too.”
Polls close at 7 p.m. and, traditionally, voting is pretty brisk at 6 p.m., as people are returning from work.
Of course, there’s plenty of time for people to vote before game time. Thus far, though, there hasn’t been a lot of activity at polling places.
The first sign of light voting activity is from advance ballots. Shew’s office sent out 8,000 ballots to people who requested them. So far, only 4,000 of them have come back. Traditionally, the office gets a return rate of about 70% to 75%, Shew said.
“Hopefully a bunch of them are coming back in the mail today or getting dropped off at polling places today,” Shew said. “We could still get there.”
Ballots postmarked today will be counted as long as they are received via mail at the clerk’s office by Friday. Voters also can drop their advance ballots off at any polling place in the county — it doesn’t have to be the polling place they are assigned to — anytime before 7 p.m. today. This is the second election that state law has allowed the countywide drop-off system.
Shew said that early-morning, in-person voting wasn’t real brisk today. Based on that information, he said it was likely voter turnout would be at 23% or less. During the last City Commission/school board election, in 2017, turnout was 23.4%.
“I don’t see anything that tells me it will be above that 23% level,” Shew said.
The 23% turnout number in 2017 actually was the highest turnout of the decade for a city/school board race. It also was the first time that the city/school elections were held in November. They were held in April, but a change in state law shifted them to November. Prior to that change, voter turnout had been anywhere in the 13% to 16% range.
At that level of turnout, it only takes about 6,000 votes — in a town that has about 77,000 people 18 years and older — to win one of the three seats on the City Commission, based on past results.
Here’s a look at past turnout numbers from recent city/school general elections:
• 2017: 23.4%
• 2015: 16.5%
• 2013: 16.5%
• 2011: 13.5%
• 2009: 14.0%
Today is the day voters decide a handful of City Commission and school board races.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. in Douglas County and will remain open until 7 p.m.. To find your voting location, go to the Douglas County clerk’s website, which allows you to search by your address.
Voters in Lawrence have three positions to fill on the Lawrence City Commission and four spots to fill on the Lawrence school board.
All the seats up for grabs in both the city and school board races are at-large positions, meaning there are no districts and any voter can vote for any of the candidates on the ballot.
The election is sure to produce some new faces on both boards. Stuart Boley is the only incumbent seeking reelection on the City Commission, while Shannon Kimball is the only school board member seeking reelection.
Here is a brief reminder of the candidates, first for the City Commission:
• Stuart Boley: Current Lawrence city commissioner and retired auditor for the IRS. Boley, a former Lawrence mayor, is seeking his second four-year term on the commission.
• Ken Easthouse: A member of the city’s Public Incentives Review Committee, president of the Prairie Park Neighborhood Association, and a former supervisor at a Lawrence call center.
• Brad Finkeldei: A Lawrence attorney who has served on the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission in addition to several other city boards and a variety of nonprofit, social service boards.
• Joey Hentzler: Director of advocacy for the nonprofit Kansas Appleseed, which addresses issues of social, economic and political injustice, and serves as member of the Douglas County Extension Council.
• Rob Sands: An active-duty lieutenant colonel in the Kansas Army National Guard, who also is currently a member of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission.
• Courtney Shipley: A local property manager who also serves as the chair of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods and is a member of the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
In the school board race, the candidates are:
• Carole Cadue-Blackwood: Has a master’s degree in social work and recently led the effort to change the name of South Middle School to Billy Mills Middle School to help raise awareness of Native American students in the district.
• Shannon Kimball: Current school board member and a lawyer by training; she said she is currently a “full-time volunteer.” Kimball has been on the board since 2011 and has served as the president of the board.
• Erica Hill: A finance and operations manager for the LMH Health Foundation, where she led the creation of a summer mentorship program for local students. She also has served as a board member for the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence and on the Douglas County Community Health Plan steering committee.
• Thea Perry: A former Democratic candidate for the Kansas House of Representatives, where she campaigned on a variety of education issues. She also is the chair of the operating board of the Lawrence Community Shelter.
• Paula Smith: Director of the Mentor Kansas program for the Kansas Volunteer Commission. Smith also has been active in local education issues through her past service as committee chair of the Native American Student Services Program.
Voters in Baldwin City, Eudora and Lecompton also are going to the polls today.
In addition to the various school board and city races, there is a statewide constitutional amendment question involving how population in the state is counted for purposes of legislative districts. The amendment would end Kansas’ practice of adjusting official U.S. Census numbers to eliminate nonresident college students and military personnel. In the past, the secretary of state’s office has contacted every college student and military member residing in Kansas to ask where they want their official residence to be counted.
If approved, the amendment simply would allow Kansas to use the population counts created by the U.S. Census Bureau.