Eligible voters in Sedgwick County managed to avoid the polls in large numbers for Tuesday’s city and school elections.
Only a little more than 6 percent of them – 6.19 percent, to be exact – actually cast ballots, Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said late Tuesday.
That wasn’t much better than the February primary, when less than 5 percent voted during a heavy snowstorm, she said.
“This is pretty low,” Lehman said.
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At least the low turnout helped make for a smooth day of voting for those who did show up.
“Things seemed to go very well today,” Lehman said.
Lehman had projected that less than 9 percent of the eligible voters would go to the polls. Just more than 1,500 voters cast advance ballots in person. The election office had received 3,100 advance ballots by mail by Monday.
A glitch in the “Voter View” database operated by the Kansas Secretary of State’s office confused some people. While voters could find out their polling locations on the site, the site was telling people there was no election, which was not the case.
The flow of voters was slow but steady all day at Faith Christian Church, 2110 W. 45th St. South in southwest Wichita. The site saw an average of 10 voters an hour in the morning and had 150 by 4 p.m.
“People in this area believe in Election Day,” said Bill Gale, supervising judge at the site. “We have a lot of older folks in this area.”
People who vote at Faith Christian believe local elections are more important that presidential elections, he said. “They believe in presidential elections, but this is what governs us.”
Sandra Schriner, who voted at the same location, said she voted Tuesday because she has always voted.
“A lot of people have died for me to have the right to vote,” Schriner said.
By 5 p.m., about 300 voters had turned out at Glenn Park Christian Church, 2757 S. Glenn, in southwest Wichita.
Kim Reiboldt returned from out of town to vote at the church. He tries to vote in every election, he said.
The low turnout disappointed him.
“I think it’s just great that we can vote, so I try to vote regardless,” he said.
Phillip Eslinger, who voted at Glenn Park, said it’s a privilege to vote.
“It’s a waste of time if you don’t come out to vote when you have the freedom to do it,” he said.
Voting at Christ the King’s Charity Hall surpassed the expectations of Katie Arnold, supervising judge. Of the roughly 4,300 potential voters in the district, 120 had voted as of 5:30 p.m., translating to roughly 3 percent. For an election like this, Arnold said, that number is high.
“I’m happy with the results so far,” Arnold said. “I was very surprised.”
Arnold, a self-described “adamant voter,” blamed the low turnout on poor publicity by the city, especially so for the Board of Education races.
“If people have kids in school, they’re a fool for not coming out to vote,” Arnold said. “When people gripe about the schools later, the first thing I ask them is, ‘Did you vote?’ If they say no, I tell them to shut up.”
Janet Lamm said she was drawn to the polls by the school board races.
“I think education’s important. We need some good representation,” said Lamm, who voted at Glenn Park Christian Church.
Kay Palmer said she always votes but had extra incentive this time to cast a ballot for City Council District 4 candidate Joshua Blick because of his years of work on behalf of the area.
“He never gets credit for it, he never gets recognized for it,” Palmer said after voting at Glenn Park Christian Church. “That’s not why he does it. It’s because he lives here and loves the people in this part of town.”
Nellie Kurtz, 91, cast her vote Tuesday afternoon at the Haysville Activity Center.
She said she believes city officials have done a good job running Haysville. She said she tries to keep up with local government and has missed voting only once in her lifetime, and that was by two minutes.
“I take pride” in keeping up with local issues, she said.
Contributing: Deb Gruver, Rick Plumlee and Matt Riedl of The Eagle