Turnout to vote in primary election expected to be slightly lower

07/31/2014 12:35 PM

08/08/2014 10:26 AM

State and local officials expect turnout for the primary election to be at least slightly lower than in comparable years.

The last day to cast a ballot in the primary is Election Day on Tuesday.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Thursday predicted 22 percent turnout of the state’s more than 1.7 million registered voters.

That would be short of the 25.2 percent turnout for the 2010 primary, the last primary that did not include a presidential election.

Tabitha Lehman, Sedgwick County’s election commissioner, didn’t want to put a percentage on her forecast but said, “At this point, it looks like our our numbers will be down” from the county’s 25.6 percent turnout of 2010.

Lehman said she based her expectations on a slow response to advance mail balloting.

About 15,000 advance ballots were mailed out for the 2010 primary. Through mid-afternoon Thursday, only 7,100 ballots had been mailed, she said

“We’ll stop mailing Friday,” she said, “so we’re not going to come anywhere close to 15,000.”

The surge in advance voting by mail in 2010 was driven by Todd Tiahrt, a Republican candidate who put on a strong vote-by-mail campaign that year when he was running for a U.S. Senate seat.

“No one is doing that this year,” Lehman said.

She was encouraged by the early response to in-person advance voting, which began Thursday at satellite sites around the county. By 2 p.m. Thursday, 803 people had voted at those sites or at the election office.

That more than doubled the number of people who had voted at the election office over the previous six days, Lehman said.

The high-profile 4th District congressional race in the GOP primary is expected to drive the turnout for the county, as well as in the state to some degree.

That race matches incumbent Mike Pompeo and Tiahrt, a former representative who lost the 2010 Senate primary race to Jerry Moran.

Kobach also has a challenge in the primary, facing Lawrence attorney Scott Morgan.

In a GOP Senate race, longtime incumbent Pat Roberts faces Leawood radiologist Milton Wolf.

Gov. Sam Brownback is being challenged by Jennifer Winn, a Wichita small-business owner. But his main test is expected to come in November when he meets Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, the House minority leader.

In Sedgwick County, there are numerous state House races and two county commission seats up for grabs.

There are 255,859 people registered to vote in the county. Nearly 41 percent of those are Republicans and almost 28 percent are Democrats.

Lehman said voters should be aware of possible parking problems at two advance voting sites on Saturday, when polls are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A large turnout is expected for the annual Convoy of Hope Outreach at Bethel Life Center, which is across the street from an advance voting place at the Machinists Union District 70 building, 3830 S. Meridian.

Parking also may be tricky at the Sedgwick County Zoo, which has an advance voting site in its learning center. The zoo is holding its back-to-school bash Saturday, when admission is $1.

Last year, more than 11,000 people came to the event, Lehman said.

“At the same time, if voters are already there for the event, they can also go to the learning center and vote,” she said.

She also reminded voters to take their photo ID to the polls, a requirement of state law since 2012.

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