Voter turnout for city and school board races near 22%

photo by: Nick Krug

A collection of "I voted" stickers is pictured at the Douglas County Courthouse in this file photo from Nov. 3, 2016.

About 22% of voters turned out for Tuesday’s city and school board elections, which made it one of the better turnouts for local races this decade.

Not bad for a night when the Kansas Jayhawks had a 6 p.m. tipoff, which is normally prime time for voters returning home from work.

“Historically, as you get closer to the game, the voting drops off quite a bit,” Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said early on Tuesday.

That ended up being the case, Shew said, but the 22% turnout still almost equaled the 23% turnout posted in the 2017 city/school board elections. Prior to that election, local races were producing turnout numbers of between 13% and 16% for most of the decade.

“I was pretty pleased with turnout, given that 2017 was one of the highest turnouts we’ve had,” Shew said. “I’m glad that we kept that positive momentum going.”

This was the second city/school board election held in November. Previously, the local elections had been held in the spring, but a state law that took effect in 2017 moved them to the more traditional voting month of November.

Shew said he thinks the move has helped with turnout, even if not always for the intended reasons.

“We had a lot of people who thought there was a federal race on the ballot, and they came out to vote because that is what you do in November,” Shew said.

Tuesday’s election did not include any federal or statewide elected offices on the ballot. The only statewide issue on the ballot was a fairly low-key state constitutional amendment that details how population is counted for legislative districts.

A year from now, though, presidential and Congressional races will be on the ballot, and Shew said work on preparing for that election already has begun. He said turnout likely won’t be a problem in that election.

“I’m anticipating that will be a record turnout,” Shew said.

Before the 2020 work gets into full swing, Shew’s office still has about a week’s worth of tasks to complete on this election. For the first time, state law requires county clerks to conduct a voting audit. That audit involves hand-counting ballots in two races in 1% of the county’s precincts. The hand-counted totals are then compared to the machine-counted totals to ensure that the computer system is accurately tallying votes.

Shew said that audit is expected to take all of Wednesday. The rest of the week will be devoted to counting provisional ballots and closing out the books on the election. The election results are made final by a local canvassing board on Nov. 18.

While vote totals will change some as provisional and other contested ballots are counted or disallowed, Shew said neither the Lawrence city or school board races were close enough where it would be likely that any of the winners of the races would change.

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