The man who brought Kansas its voter photo identification law came to town Tuesday to see how it was working.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach visited two polling sites and spent some at time the Sedgwick County Election Office as the new voter ID underwent in its first large-scale test.
About 13.5 percent of registered voters in Wichita 26,457 turned out to decide if developers of a new downtown hotel could keep $2.25 million in guest tax revenues over 15 years.
Thats slightly more than the 13.1 percent that turned out for the mayoral election last spring and a little less than the 15 percent Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman had projected. The issue failed, 61 percent to 38 percent.
Kobach said the voter ID system worked well. I think the overwhelming majority of people are happy with this law, he said. Were seeing this is not only going smoothly and efficiently, its not having any of the negative consequences that some detractors claim the law would have.
But not everyone agreed. Some voters thought showing an ID was a good idea, but others reported delays and confusion at the polls.
Twenty-two voters had to cast provisional ballots because they didnt have a photo ID, Lehman said. Those voters have until Monday to take their photo ID to the election office on the first floor of the historic courthouse, 510 N. Main, for their vote to count.
Chris Lawless, 20, doesnt have a government-issued ID, so he filled out a provisional ballot at St. Andrews Lutheran Church after many frustrating minutes spent waiting on election officials to decide whether he could vote. Lawless, who doesnt have a birth certificate or photo ID, was born in Wichita.
Everybody is pointing in three other directions and not knowing what to do, said Lawless, who lives with his sister in Wichita.
Ernestine Krehbiel, president of the Kansas League of Women Voters, said she took Lawless to St. Andrews to vote because he was a family friend.
Hes so frustrated hes almost given up, Krehbiel said. And thats what we were concerned with a lot of people like this, when they run into difficulty they just give up.
Randy Roduck, a former Air Force colonel, tried to use his retired military ID, which includes a photo, to vote at East Metro Baptist Church. A U.S. military ID is one of the acceptable forms of ID.
But poll workers werent able to get the system to accept the ID, he said.
They seemed confused, Roduck said. He finally gave them his drivers license and voted.
Voters interviewed at the Westlink Church of Christ site had no objections to showing a photo ID
Its a good idea keeps people who arent citizens from voting," said Linda Lavid, 64.
Monica DeGraffenreid, 31, who came to vote with her two young children, agreed.
Just so you can make sure you are who you say you are, she said.
At the Sedgwick County Zoo poll site, voter Thelma Grimes, 83, thanked Kobach for making the voter ID law a requirement in Kansas.
Its long overdue, she told him.
Lehman said shes aware of one person who showed up at a polling place and said he wouldnt vote if he had to show an ID. The man then left. Kobach said he knows of one person who did the same thing at a January election in Cimarron.
A few tech glitches
There were some technological glitches, although Lehman said those werent related to the photo ID law. She said the snags came from the electronic signature pads and ID scanners, which also were being used for the first time in the county. In the past, poll workers had to flip through a poll book to find the voters name.
Lehman said St. Andrews was the only site that wasnt eventually able to use its electronic signature pads. The others who were having problems were operating by at least mid-morning, she said.
When the pads couldnt be used, voters used the old-fashioned method and signed poll books, Lehman said.
In east Wichita, Cindy Younger wound up at the wrong polling place because thats where she was told to go by an automated campaign phone call.
Younger said the robo-call urged her to vote yes on the ballot measure and told her that her polling place was at the Maranatha Worship Center, on Webb Road just south of the Kansas Turnpike. When she arrived, an election worker told her shed have to go to the Greenwich Road Church of Christ, on Webb Road south of Harry Street. The poll worker pointed her in the wrong direction but she eventually found it, she said.
If Id had to work today and was doing it at lunch, Id have probably just given up, she said.
Lehman said she had heard of a small number of similar complaints from voters, all out of the Maranatha precinct.
Developer Paul Coury, leader of the yes campaign, contacted the campaigns consultant and said it appeared a small number of voters were told to go to the wrong polling place by campaign calls.
He said there appeared to be some confusion because some regular polling places werent open for the special election.
Coury said it certainly was not the campaigns intent to misdirect anyone.
Wed want them to go to the right place to vote, he said. If its a mistake, I guarantee its hurting us, not helping us.