Last-minute Douglas County facts and figures as Election Day arrives
photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo
Whether you are an undecided voter or a fully decided one who simply hasn’t marked your ballot, time is quickly running out. To state the obvious, Election Day is tomorrow — Tuesday, Nov. 3.
But surely you knew that already. If nothing else, you were clued in by the fact that no television program for the last month has been longer than three minutes in order to accommodate all the political ads. (I no longer go to the fridge for a beer during commercial breaks, but rather just brew up a fresh keg.)
Perhaps, though, there are still a few election facts you don’t know (or you have forgotten during a particularly long commercial break). Here’s a look at several:
• 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. are the key hours to remember on Election Day. The polls will be open those 12 hours across Kansas. Historically, lines have not been overly long in Douglas County, especially as more people have taken to advance voting. But, if you are in line at 7 p.m. and still have not voted, stay in line. According to the Kansas Secretary of State’s website, all voters who are in line when a polling location closes are allowed to vote.
• If you already have a mail-in ballot, you must get the ballot in the mail with a postmark of Nov. 3, in order for your ballot to be counted. If you have had second thoughts about using the mail, you can drop your mail-in ballot off at any polling location in the county. But have it all filled out, signed and placed in the special envelope beforehand. That special envelope is key for verification purposes. Follow the instructions. Don’t turn in a mail-in ballot without first putting it in the special envelope. Your vote likely won’t be counted if that happens.
• If you have lost your mail-in ballot, you can still vote. You need to go to your assigned polling place and explain your situation. You will receive what is called a provisional ballot. Those ballots are kept separate from traditional ballots and are placed in a special envelope. This allows election officials to ensure you are not voting twice, once at the polling location and once by a mail-in-ballot.
• The internet hasn’t always been tremendously helpful this election season, but if you have forgotten the location of your polling place in Douglas County, an online search can be helpful. Go to douglascountyelections.com to search for your registration status. By entering your name and birthdate, you can find your registration status and your polling location. If the internet is not your thing, you can call the elections division of the Douglas County Clerk’s office at 785-832-5267.
• Hopefully you are proud of your driver’s license photo. Election Day is a time when you will have to show it. When you go to the polls, make sure you have photo identification. While a driver’s license is most common, there are other forms of photo identification that will work. A U.S. passport, a student I.D. from an accredited Kansas college or post secondary institution, a U.S. military I.D. are all valid, too, as are several other less common forms of identification, according to the Kansas Secretary of State’s website at www.sos.ks.gov
All of those are fairly practical facts to help you vote. But what about some fun facts and figures to help get through those election watch parties? Well, I can’t guarantee that reciting them will land you a job on CNN or some other election show, but they may get you a prime spot in an empty corner of the party. Here are a few:
Expect a Douglas County record to fall
• All indications are that this election will produce more voters than any other in Douglas County’s history. The record was about 54,500 in 2008, when Barack Obama won his first term as president. On Monday evening, Douglas County’s election office had already received 41,436 ballots through the mail or at advance voting locations. Even if no one voted on actual Election Day, voter turnout in Douglas County is over 50%.
Is 70% a possibility?
• A local turnout of 70% or more could be possible this election. I don’t have enough data to say that’s never happened in Douglas County, but it would be a new high for recent presidential elections. That monster election of 2008 produced a voter turnout of 64% in Douglas County. The presidential elections since then have checked in with smaller turnout numbers. In 2012, turnout was 61%, and it was 63% in 2016. If I’m doing my math right, 57,645 people will need to vote in Douglas County to get to the 70% mark. Given that we are already over 40,000 before Election Day, that’s possible.
Impressive registration numbers
• In the blurb above, I’ve given you all the information you need to calculate how many registered voters there are in Douglas County. (Math word problems will be very popular at election parties, I predict.) However, don’t get the abacus out yet. I’ll just tell you: Douglas County has 82,351 registered voters. What’s impressive is that represents 90% of all of the people 18 and older in the county. In other words, most people who are eligible to vote have registered.
• No shock here, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a lot in Douglas County. There are 36,826 registered Democrats versus 21,693 Republicans. Unaffiliated voters actually are the second largest group of registered voters in the county at 22,866. Douglas County’s numbers are basically a mirror of the state’s. Douglas County is about 45% registered Democrats, while the state is about 44% registered Republicans.
• Despite those numbers, there is one Douglas County map that shows a whole lot more Republican red than Democrat blue. The map below shows the breakdown of registered voters by precincts in Douglas County. It looks a lot like the national maps: The Democrats control the centers of population, while the Republicans control the land masses.
photo by: Courtesy: Douglas County
Trump vs. Kobach
• In 2016, Donald Trump won 28.7% of the vote in Douglas County. It will be interesting to watch what the total is this year. If election night produces Trump totals higher than that in Douglas County, that could be a sign of good things to come for the president nationally. That’s probably a sign there are some wrong polls because Douglas County does not fit the profile of a place where the president will outperform his 2016 results. If the numbers come in lower, I’m not sure how much that will mean, but they could be interesting nonetheless. I’ll be watching how the president’s local numbers compare to those of another, similar politician, Kris Kobach. When Kobach ran for governor in 2018, he received just 20.5% of the vote in Douglas County. That is one of the lowest numbers I’ve ever seen in Douglas County for a Republican Party candidate. Will local voters speak that loudly again?
• As for local races, we’ll spend a lot of time on LJWorld.com and in Wednesday’s newspaper providing those results. There aren’t a ton of hotly contested races on the local ballot. The 3rd District Douglas County Commission seat — which represents parts of west Lawrence and much of western rural Douglas County — have two active campaigners in Democrat Shannon Portillo and Republican Pam McDermott. Portillo is trying to become the first Democrat since 1976 to hold the 3rd District seat. In fact, J-W reporter Dylan Lysen previously reported that there have only been three Democrats hold that seat since 1928.
Another piece of potential history could emerge from the County Commission races though. Both Portillo and McDermott live inside the city limits of Lawrence. So does Shannon Reid, who is running for the 2nd District County Commission seat. Only Brett LaRue, the Republican candidate for the 2nd District, lives outside of Lawrence. That makes for a real possibility that all three county commission seats will be occupied by Lawrence residents. We are still trying to determine the last time that has happened, but it is a rare occurrence. Depending on how the races turn out, I suspect that will be a topic of more conversation in the future.
One last local race to keep an eye on is Senate District No. 3. That pits the incumbent, Democrat Tom Holland, versus Republican Willie Dove. Given the big Democratic advantage in numbers cited above, it is hard to think of Lawrence having a Senate seat that isn’t in Democratic control. But Senate District No. 3 is only partly in Lawrence. It mainly represents the southeast part of the city. The district also includes Eudora, Baldwin City and the rural areas in between. As the map above shows, Republicans outnumber Democrats in those areas. Importantly, the district also has a lot of territory in Leavenworth County. There have been signs that part of the district has been becoming more conservative, as moderate Republican Jim Karleskint lost to more conservative Republican Lance Neelly in a primary race earlier this year for House District No. 42, which encompasses much of the rural area also represented by Senate District No. 3.
Both Holland and Dove have spent more than $30,000 trying to win the Senate seat, so it seems to be a race worth watching.