This time, my ballot might make a difference, voters say

Dixie Mills has been voting since 1960 and has been very involved in this year’s election.
Dixie Mills has been voting since 1960 and has been very involved in this year’s election. The Wichita Eagle

Kansas voters are beginning to believe that Kansas finally matters in national politics for once.

Close and critical races for the U.S. Senate, governor and secretary of state have drawn national attention and given voters resolve to get to the polls on Tuesday.

“I think that for the first time in almost half a century Kansas might be consequential, that my vote might make a difference,” said Dixie Mills, 79, a retired teacher in Wichita who said she has voted in every election since 1960. “The races this time are quite critical for the national makeup of Congress and the effects that it might have on millions of people.”

Which is why reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today and other large news outlets have traveled to Kansas to tail candidates from county fairs to town hall meetings trying to figure out our politics.

Republican stars such as Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin have dropped in on Kansas to bolster the campaign of Sen. Pat Roberts, contending that control of the Senate — and therefore the future of American policy — depends upon him defeating independent businessman Greg Orman.

The race for governor between Republican incumbent Sam Brownback and Democrat Paul Davis is seen nationally as a referendum on conservative GOP economic and tax policies.

And Secretary of State Kris Kobach is a national figure on immigration and voter registration laws, so his contest against Democratic challenger Jean Schodorf is being scrutinized well beyond the state’s borders.

Kobach and Sedgwick County election commissioner Tabitha Lehman predict that 50 percent of registered voters in the state and county will participate in the election. That would be a record 872,000 people statewide.

Russell Fox, a political science professor at Friends University, said the turnout may be higher than usual for a midterm election, particularly among minority groups that don’t usually vote in midterms.

Incumbent Republican candidates like Brownback, Roberts and Kobach, whose party normally dominates in Kansas, are unpopular, and the unpopularity of each one feeds off the others, giving hope to their challengers, he said.

People are going to be more fired up to vote, whether they are Democrats hoping to unseat the Republicans, or Republicans rallying to prevent that.

Polls show races to be competitive this time, Fox said.

“As long as I’ve lived in Kansas, the only time statewide races become competitive is during the primary season,” he said.

Mills and other voters said the national attention is a good thing for Kansas. Mills said it brings better publicity to the state than the Westboro Baptist Church, and it might encourage young people who have given up on the political process to participate in future elections.

Increased awareness

Alexis Simmons, a Washburn University student from Wichita, is a first-time voter who couldn’t wait for her 18th birthday so she could get to the polls. The importance of this election has increased her awareness of the candidates and made her feel more personally invested in the process, she said.

She knows other students on her campus who have become more aware of politics and candidates because of the national interest, she said.

“The election is exciting, intense, close, and valuable to the future of my home,” said Simmons, who also is motivated to vote by sacrifices women made in the past to secure their right to vote. “The ability to make a difference in the future of the politics in the United States is not a privilege that should be ignored.”

Responding to an informal survey of voters by The Eagle, some said that their vote this time is the most important vote they ever have cast, whether Republican or Democrat.

One caller, 88, said President Obama is ruining the country, so she wouldn’t miss voting against Democrats even if she had to be carried into the voting booth on a stretcher.

Another who identified herself as a Republican said she was so turned off by Republican political ads, phone calls and plans for the state to take over Medicare that she is ashamed and ready to leave Kansas after living here all her life.

One confessed to be so confused by all the campaign ads on television, and all the “mudslinging” in those ads, that she isn’t sure she’ll vote.

Many voters said they were fed up the barrage of campaign ads. Betty Ladwig, 84, of Wichita, said she mutes her TV whenever one appears.

“I’m concerned with the amount of money being spent on them, I’m concerned that money buys an election, and I’m especially concerned with the ads disrespecting the office of the president. They’re portraying him like a gangster,” she said.

Ladwig, who said she has voted in every election since she was eligible to vote, and who voted in advance for this one, said, “I think the beneficiaries of this election, more than any I have remembered, will be the advertising firms and the television stations that air these ads.”

Competitive races

Still, the state’s competitive races are drawing them to the polls, voters said.

“By having close races it’s definitely made this election cycle more exciting, in the fact that there’s more attention, more awareness,” said April Lemon of Wichita, a regular voter since 1996. “People seem more energized by this mid-term election compared to previous mid-terms.”

Charlie King of Wichita, who has voted regularly since 1972, said he feels his vote has more meaning this year.

“I kind of feel the national attention Kansas is getting is going to bring out a lot of voters,” he said. “I would imagine it will bring a pretty big increase in the sheer numbers.”

“I think every election is important,” King said, “but especially this one.”

Cliff Baker of Newton said he thinks the election could help change the national perception of Kansas as a flyover red state, and give it a more inviting image by putting Orman and Davis in office.

“My vote will not count any more than any other time,” he said, “but it could have a larger impact on how the rest of the nation views the state of Kansas. It would be a whole new ballgame if those guys get in. Both of them are open-minded and do things differently rather than do the same old thing, and that’s kind of exciting for Kansas.”

Roger Evanson, a Republican from Wichita, also thinks the national focus on Kansas could help his vote make a difference, because the nation will see voters like him “bumping Democrats out and taking back our country.”

Robert McRae of Wichita, who voted in advance last week, said he is a moderate who is distressed that he no longer sees moderation in national politics.

“You just wonder where all the sane people are anymore,” he said.

Washington is dysfunctional, compromise is a lost art, money is corrupting politics, and young people who are watching it all are learning all the wrong lessons from this generation, McRae said, echoing many voters.

He’d like to see that change and he hopes this election can start moving people off the political extremes and toward moderation.

“If you fell in a hole and couldn’t get out, I’m not going to ask you if you’re a Democrat or Republican,” McRae said. “I’m going to help you.”

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

Online voter guide

To learn about the candidates and issues you will be voting on, go to the online voter guide at Kansas.com/election. Punch in your address and you can see information on the races you will be voting on.

When to vote?

Polls in Sedgwick and Butler counties will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Polls in Harvey and Sumner counties will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information on voting, including how to find your polling site, report a problem or get a ride to the polls, turn to Page XA.

For results

Go to Kansas.com on Tuesday night for the latest results and for reports on the candidates, their reactions and their celebrations.

Voter toolbox

When and where can you vote?

Polls in Sedgwick and Butler counties will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Polls in Harvey and Sumner counties will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

You must vote at your assigned polling place on Tuesday. To find your site, check your voter card or go to https://myvoteinfo.voteks.org.

You can also vote at the Sedgwick County Election Office, 510 N. Main, Suite 101, from 8 a.m. to noon on Monday. Other county election offices also will have voting on Monday; hours vary, so call ahead to check.

For more information

If you have questions, call your county election office:

▪ Sedgwick: 316-660-7100

▪ Butler: 316-322-4299

▪ Harvey: 316-284-6840

▪ Sumner: 620-326-3395

If you have problems

If you encounter a problem when you go to vote, call the election office in your county (see numbers above). Or call the Kansas secretary of state’s office at 1-800-262-8683.,

A federal prosecutor will be available during voting hours Tuesday to take complaints about election fraud or possible voting rights violations. You can call Assistant U.S. Attorney Leon Patton at 913-551-6730.

If you suspect an election crime, you can also call the FBI’s Kansas City field office’s hotline, 1-855-527-2847, or email kcpctip@ic.fbi.gov. Or make citizen complaints about possible violations of the federal voting rights laws at 1-800-253-3931 or email voting.section@usdoj.gov.

The Eagle also would like to know about any issues you encounter while voting; you can call us at 316-269-6762 or e-mail us at tips@wichitaeagle.com.

To see a sample ballot

Go to https://myvoteinfo.voteks.org. Click on “Registration information” and input your name and date of birth to access a sample ballot for your precinct. You can also build your own sample ballot by going to The Eagle’s online voter guide at www.kansas.com/election and punching in your address to see information on the races you can vote on.

For a ride to the polls

The Wichita chapter of the League of Women Voters will provide rides to advance voting sites and to the polls on Election Day. Call Carole Neal at 316-259-7575.

Sedgwick County’s Democratic Party will provide rides to advance voting sites and to polls on Election Day. Call the party’s headquarters at 316-262-7534.

Sedgwick County’s Republican Party will provide rides to advance voting sites and to polls on Election Day. Call the party’s headquarters at 316-263-0550.

Take an ID

Voters must provide one of eight valid government-issued photo IDs.

▪ Voting in person: Take a current driver’s license, nondriver ID card, concealed carry handgun license, U.S. passport, government employee ID, U.S. military ID, Kansas college ID, government public assistance ID or Indian tribe ID.

▪ Voting by mail: Include a copy of your ID or your Kansas driver’s license or nondriver ID number and sign your ballot. Election officials are required to verify voters’ signatures.

▪ If you forget your ID: Cast a provisional ballot and provide valid ID to the Sedgwick County Election Office within a few days.

▪ For more information, including who is exempt from this requirement and how to get a free Kansas nondriver’s identification card, go to www.gotvoterid.com.

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