After record primary numbers in Shawnee County, another big turnout expected in November’s general election
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - An exceptionally large number of Shawnee County residents turned out to vote in Tuesday’s primary election, officials said.
As of Wednesday morning, officials said more than 63,000 Shawnee County residents cast ballots in the election.
Shawnee County Election Commissioner Andrew Howell said the driving force behind the large turnout was the Value Them Both constitutional amendment question that was on the ballot.
Voters statewide and across Kansas rejected the proposed constitutional amendment that would have restricted abortions in the state.
More than three times as many advance ballots -- better than 14,000 -- were cast in Shawnee County. The 2018 primary election had only around 3,100 advance ballots.
Then, on Tuesday, nearly 50,000 Shawnee County residents went to their polling places to vote in person.
“There’s no question in my mind.” Howell said, “that the question on the ballot -- the constitutional amendment that was proposed -- was certainly driving a lot of that.”
Howell said that as of Wednesday morning, about 54% of eligible Shawnee County voters had cast their ballots in Tuesday’s primary election.
That compares to a 32% voter turnout in the 2018 primary and a 34% turnout in the 2020 primary.
That number is expected to go up as about 1,000 provisional ballots also were cast, and mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Tuesday and arrive here at the election office by Friday also will be counted.
“I think it’s going to end up being numbers right on the button of about 55 percent voter turnout,” Howell said, “\which is just huge for a primary. We’ve never seen anything like it for a primary that I’m aware of.”
Because mail-in ballots continue to arrive each day, Howell said the Shawnee County Election Commissioner’s website will be updated around 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Several voting places -- including one at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka at 4775 S.W. 21st -- had to stay open later than planned as people were standing in line at 7 p.m. Tuesday when polls officially closed.
Individuals who were in line at 7 p.m. were allowed to go ahead and vote.
“They couldn’t shut down last night because they were still processing voters until 7:45 p.m. in the polling place,” Howell said. “So a lot of people were out there. Some of them were even out there at 7 o’clock waiting toward the very end.”
As is the case in most elections, Howell said, there were a few problems with voting machines at some Shawnee County polling places. Those issues were quickly resolved, Howell said.
“Almost every election, there’s one or two that there’s a question,” Howell said, “and rather than have big questions marks in our mind about what’s up, we’ll just change the machine out and then carry on with the election.”
After the record-setting turnout in Tuesday’s primary election, Howell said he’s looking for even more people to vote in the Nov. 8 general election.
“If I had to guess, it’ll definitely be more than the primary,” he said. “I would not be surprised to see in excess of 70,000 voters. I’ll bet we’re at 65% would be my initial guess -- 65%, maybe 70% turnout.”
Howell said he’s hopeful the energy from the Aug. 2 primary will carry over to future elections.
“It’s always a good thing,” he said, “when people appreciate and exercise the right to have their voice heard.”
The statewide voter turnout for Tuesday’s primary in Kansas was approximately 46.6 percent as of Wednesday afternoon, with some 908,781 votes cast out of 1,950,971 registered voters.
The statewide numbers also are expected to rise as mail and provisional ballots are still to be counted.
Howell said the Shawnee County Election Office is seeking between 150 and 200 people to work during the Nov. 8 general election.
To apply or for more information, visit www.snco.us/election/worker_training_and_compensation.asp or call the Shawnee County Election Office at 785-251-5900.
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