Politics & Government

Kobach predicts record number of voters this election

People use electronic voting machines at the Old Sedgwick County Courthouse on Thursday. Early voting has been steady so far this year. (Nov. 3, 2016)
People use electronic voting machines at the Old Sedgwick County Courthouse on Thursday. Early voting has been steady so far this year. (Nov. 3, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Secretary of State Kris Kobach predicts that a record number of Kansans will vote in the 2016 election based on the number of advanced ballots cast.

He said Thursday that he expects more than 1.3 million Kansans to vote, with a turnout rate of about 72 percent. That would be a record for total voters and the state’s highest voter turnout rate since 1996.

As of Thursday morning, 324,266 Kansans had cast ballots either by mail or in person. That’s about 80,000 more than at this point in the 2012 election, which also had a presidential race on the ballot.

Kobach cited this year’s presidential race as the driving factor.

“This has been an unusual election year so far for a wide variety of reasons. … Some people think it’s unusual in a good way, some people think it’s unusual in a bad way,” Kobach said. “But one thing that I think we can take away from this is that one very positive effect has been that voter interest is extremely high in 2016 and that voter interest is reflected in the very rapid pace in advanced voting in Kansas thus far.”

Republicans account for 50 percent of the ballots cast so far in Kansas, while Democrats account for 31 percent. Unaffiliated voters make up about 18 percent of the ballots cast at this point.

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A record 1.8 million Kansans have registered to vote, which Kobach attributed partially to the unconventional campaign of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“Mr. Trump’s candidacy has pulled in some individuals who have not been involved in politics before. … He’s probably got some people registered who never thought of themselves as voters before,” said Kobach, who has been a vocal backer of Trump.

In addition to the presidential race, Kobach said, state legislative races could drive turnout in some areas of the state. All 165 seats in the Legislature are up for a vote.

“Some of those state legislative races are actually very heated contests,” he said.

The number of total registrants includes voters who were affected by recent federal court rulings, which enable people who registered at the Department of Motor Vehicles or by using the federal form to vote in this election regardless of whether they provided proof of citizenship.

Kobach said local election offices have sent out notices to all of those voters informing them that they will be allowed to vote in the election.

However, the federal rulings did not extend to people who registered using the state’s website. As of Thursday, there are still 6,947 people who will not be allowed to vote unless they provide proof of citizenship to their local election office by Monday.

Kobach said election offices have been contacting these people to inform them of the deadline.

To contact the Sedgwick County Election Office to check on your registration status, call 316-660-7100. You can also check online at myvoteinfo.voteks.org.

Voters at a few advance polling stations in Wichita tell us who they voted for in the presidential race -- and why. (Video by Oliver Morrison / The Wichita Eagle)

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