No doubt about it, it was a heated August primary.
The thermometer topped a record 109 degrees Tuesday as Kansans turned out to cast ballots in some equally hot races.
There were 64,628 people, roughly 25 percent of Sedgwick County’s registered voters, who went to the polls — a record turnout for an August election. That’s far above the 19 percent predicted for the state prior to the election.
Until now, Sedgwick County’s highest turnout for an August primary was 25 percent, or 58,253 voters, in 2002 when former mayor Bob Knight ran for governor in the Republican primary.
What drew voters were high-profile races, particularly in the Republican U.S. Senate and Congressional districts races.
“It just seemed like they were so against each other saying this person is lying and that person is lying and why didn’t he do that?” said Isabell Manning of Valley Center. “It is just so discouraging, you just hope for the best when you cast your ballot.”
And so who won her vote?
“I almost feel like apologizing, I voted Democrat,” she said.
A record number of nearly 17,000 advance ballots were cast in Sedgwick County before Tuesday. Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Bill Gale said he expected another 1,000 to arrive in Tuesday’s mail.
An hour before polls closed Tuesday, some precincts in Wichita called the Sedgwick County Election Office to order extra paper rolls to insure the voting machines would keep running without any glitches for voters.
“We try to figure the average voter takes so many feet on a ballot,” Gale said. “We thought we had sent out plenty, but some polling places have had a higher turnout than we had anticipated.”
Independent voters crossing over to vote in the hotly contested Republican races could have spurred some of the turnout and affected the election, Gale said.
“Based off what we saw, at least 5 percent were unaffiliated voters,” he said. “That’s 2,500 or 3,000 unaffiliated voters, roughly three times the number we normally see in an August primary. That’s a pretty big increase.”
This election saw only a few glitches in Sedgwick County on Tuesday.
One complaint came in shortly before noon from a voter in east Wichita.
Arlin Hill, the voter, said that when he went to vote at the Edgemoor site on East Ninth Street, he was concerned when precinct workers and other voters continuously walked behind him as he was voting.
“It is not exactly a secret ballot or private,” Hill said.
Gale said a county support worker was quickly sent to the site and moved the machines further apart, so voters could have more privacy.
“My complaint/concern is that there isn’t the privacy like the old days when you just made an ‘X’ behind a curtain,” Hill said. “We don’t know privacy in the electronic age. If I am casting a vote, I don’t want someone looking over my shoulder.”
In addition, Gale said he had heard at least three complaints about an anti-abortion group’s voter guides showing up on a table near the entrance to a Wichita polling site.
The Kansans for Life guides were supposedly placed on a table in the entry to Eastminster Presbyterian Church. Voters passed through the area on their way to the church gymnasium to vote.
“I’ve heard about this voters guide. I don’t know if it was a stack, a single one or a couple. But they seemed to be reappearing,” Gale said.
Each time Gale or his staff called the supervising judge, none of the guides were found.
If the allegations are true: “That would potentially be electioneering,” Gale said. “It is a crime.”
For some voters, the end of the election was a relief.
Barbara Raymond of Park City said she was tired of political commercials.
“I am tired of the mudslinging,” she said. “I want them to get down to the facts of what they would like to do but can’t do. I am tired of hearing ‘I am not a politician.’ I think if you are not a politician, you soon will be and you’ll get in there and not even try to do what you said you would.”
Angela and Mark Griffin of Park City said they were debating up until the last moment whom they would vote for in the 4th District congressional race — would it be candidate Mike Pompeo or Wink Hartman?Although they both declined to say who finally garnered their votes, Mike Griffin said:
“For me, it is not so much a vote for someone as it is in not letting someone else get the vote.”
Contributing: Stan Finger of The Eagle