More than 20,000 ballots have already been mailed in

Keith Carlin prefers to wait to vote on Election Day.

"Just in case any last stories come out, something that might influence your vote," he said.

But if Carlin knows he'll be out of town — which is the case for this year's Election Day, Nov. 2 — he'll vote in advance.

That's what he was doing Wednesday at the Sedgwick County Election office.

About 250 voters came to the office at 510 N. Main to cast ballots on the first day of advance voting in person.

Advance voting by mail began last week. The election office has mailed out 63,000 ballots and nearly 20,000 have already been returned, county Election Commissioner Bill Gale said.

With that kind of pace, Gale said he wouldn't be surprised to see the county break the advance voting record set in 2008. During that presidential election year, 57 percent of those who voted in the county voted in advance — 35 percent by mail, 22 percent in person.

Six years ago, about 18 percent of the county's registered voters cast their ballots early.

"People like the convenience of advance voting," Gale said.

And it will get more convenient next Tuesday, when 15 satellite sites will become available to voters. Those centers will be open at various times through Oct. 30. Advance voting at the election office continues through noon on Nov. 1.

Alan Badgley and his wife, Denise, were among those voting on opening day at the election office.

"It beats the heck out of waiting until the last day," he said.

Besides, Denise said, "If you know who you're ready to vote for, why wait?"

David Dishman was there voting in advance, just as he has the past four or five years.

"I don't want to discover I have a conflict on Tuesday and miss out on voting," he said.

Gale said he welcomes the advance voting.

"You don't have 130,000 people standing in line on Election Day," he said. "That's good for voters and spreads out the work load."

And reduces costs.

While improved technology has played a part in cutting costs, he said, the projected election office expenses this year will be less than the $885,000 spent in 2006. The cost in 2002 was even more, at $909,000.

Overall, Gale said he expects about 50 percent of the county's 260,000 registered voters to cast ballots this year.

The record turnout during a gubernatorial election cycle was in 1994, when 67 percent — 136,030 out of 203,036 registered voters — cast ballots.