Voter turnout in primary one of the highest for midterms in Wyandotte County memory

The Wyandotte County Board of Canvassers met today to certify election results. No election outcomes changed. Election Commissioner Bruce Newby said turnout was the highest he could remember for a midterm primary election.

by Mary Rupert

Voter turnout in the primary election came in at 25.29 percent, the highest voter turnout in a midterm primary election here that Election Commissioner Bruce Newby can remember.

He attributed the higher turnout to voter interest in the contested races on the ballot this year, including the Democratic ballot’s governor contest, 3rd District House contest and the local race for judge, as well as to the Republican ballot’s governor contest.

Earlier estimates for voter turnout were 15 to 18 percent here. Newby said his records only go back to 1996, and it’s possible that the Aug. 7 turnout was higher than some of the midterms before then, as well.

While 25 percent is a good turnout for a midterm primary, the other 75 percent of the registered voters who didn’t vote causes him concern, Newby said.

“When people don’t vote, it ceases to be a government of the people,” he said. Those who don’t vote are letting one out of every four registered voters decide for them, he added.

Newby said with the amount of interest in the governor’s contest and other contests, the general election could see a 45 to 50 percent turnout, although that could be ambitious.

“Historically, it’s been under 40 percent,” Newby said.

The governor’s contest is shaping up to be a three-way race among Kris Kobach for the Republicans, Laura Kelly for the Democrats and Greg Orman, an independent. Orman’s petition has been verified in Wyandotte County, he said. Petitions with more than 10,000 signatures have been submitted in Topeka, and are awaiting approval at the state level, he said.

Election results were certified as official this morning by the Board of Canvassers meeting at the election office at 850 State Ave., Kansas City, Kansas. No election outcomes changed here.

The canvass meeting today lacked the drama that was seen on Monday in Johnson County and Sedgwick County, where the numbers of provisional votes were in the thousands and results affected a very close Republican governor’s race between incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer and challenger Kris Kobach. After those results came in from provisional ballots in Johnson and Sedgwick counties, Colyer conceded the race on Tuesday evening.

In Wyandotte County, Kobach received 30 more votes today while Colyer picked up 18 more. Newby said that Colyer knew on Tuesday there were not enough votes left to count in Wyandotte County and other counties that would change the outcome of the election. The official total in Wyandotte County was 2,824 for Kobach and 1,598 for Colyer.

While Wyandotte County had over 400 provisional ballots considered today, a little over 260 votes were added to the official total here. A little over 160 provisional ballots were not counted.

Newby today praised his staff, saying that there were many mistakes reported in other counties, but “we got it right here.”

Newby went over the categories of provisional ballots, explaining the circumstances to the Board of Canvassers, which today included five Unified Government commissioners, as well as others.

For the most part, some of those who voted provisional ballots seemed a bit confused, going to the wrong polling place or voting at the wrong precinct after changing their address, and those ballots were counted. But state representative votes were eliminated if the voter cast a ballot for the wrong district.

Six people were couples in households who signed each other’s mail ballot envelope by mistake, and the Board of Canvassers agreed to count those votes today.

One 68-year-old person voted twice, once by mail and once in person at the polling place, the election commissioner said, and one ballot was not counted.

The only item where the Board of Canvassers reversed the election commissioner’s recommendation was where two voters voted a question-only ballot, then they decided they also wanted to vote a party ballot. The election commissioner had recommended only counting the question-only ballot because that is the first ballot the voters requested. However, the Board of Canvassers decided to count the votes on the other ballot as well, but only counting one sales tax vote per person.

The largest category of votes that were denied, 66 votes in all, was from voters who were not registered to vote. Twenty ballots were not counted because the voters did not sign the affidavit.

Also not counted were 43 Democratic voters who tried to vote a Republican ballot, 14 Republicans who tried to vote a Democratic ballot, one Libertarian who tried to vote a Democratic ballot, and two Libertarians who tried to vote a Republican ballot. Members of parties who want to vote in the other party’s primary must change their party affiliation by June 1, according to the state law.

In addition, one unaffiliated voter who voted a Democratic ballot was not counted because the voter did not affiliate with a party, and two unaffiliated ballots were not counted because they voted a Republican ballot but had affiliated with the Democratic Party. The unaffiliated voters are allowed by law to declare a party at the time of the primary, and vote in that party’s election.

There also was one ballot that was not counted because a Bonner Springs resident voted a sales tax-question only ballot for Kansas City, Kansas.

Three voters failed to provide identification before the voter canvass, and their ballots were not counted. The election office contacts those voters to give them the chance to bring their ID to the election office before the day of the canvass.

Poll workers may have made a mistake on two ballots with the sales tax question, where the voter was at the correct precinct, but was asked to vote a provisional ballot, according to Newby. Those two votes were counted today.

Commissioner Jim Walters asked Newby why voters couldn’t vote at any precinct, instead of just at one precinct, on election day. Newby said there would have to be a change in laws to allow that. In advance voting, only touch screens are used at three voting locations. The touch screen machines will show if a voter has already checked in at another polling place, and they will be able to provide the specific ballot for that voter. It would be very expensive to provide paper ballots at each precinct for every different state representative or other board’s district in the county, according to Newby.

Newby said in answer to a question from Commissioner Tom Burroughs that it was more difficult this year to find polling places. Argentine Recreation Center had other commitments, and the election office had to scramble to find another place that was ADA accessible.

Schools are concerned about the safety of children on election day, and if election day were to become a school holiday, perhaps they might be able to use some school buildings for voting, Newby said. The election office is paying a fee to use buildings for voting, he said, and one price that was sought for one building’s use was $500.

The election office formerly used a Kansas Speedway building for advance voting, but they were told that the building now is being used for other events including Speedway events and American Royal barbecue events, and it is not available any more, he said.

The official vote totals for the three-eighths-cent sales tax question in Kansas City, Kansas, were 10,710 yes to 6,909 no, for 60.79 percent approval.

The official vote totals for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Representative, 3rd District, in Wyandotte County were Brent Welder, 7,641, Sharice Davids, 4,384, Tom Niermann, 1,027, Sylvia D. Williams, 592, Mike McCamon, 494, and Jay Sidie, 314. Davids won the district-wide nomination, when votes were added from Johnson and Miami counties.

Official vote totals for the Wyandotte County District Court judge, Division 5, contest were Tony Martinez, 5,366, Jane Sieve Wilson, 4,789, and Mike Nichols, 3,565.

Provisional votes that were recommended not to count in Wyandotte County.

Democrats to meet for breakfast Saturday

Brian McClendon, who is running for secretary of state, and Marci Francisco, running for state treasurer, will be the guest speakers on Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Wyandotte County Third Saturday Democratic Breakfast at Las Islas Marias, 7516 State Ave., Kansas City, Kansas.

The buffet will be available at 8:15 a.m. with the program starting at 9 a.m.

The cost of the breakfast is $10, or $6 for students and those on limited incomes.

Reservations should be made to by Friday, Aug. 17. While reservations are encouraged, they are not required. It isn’t necessary to purchase a breakfast to listen to the program.

The meeting is open to all Democrats. Those who have special needs should include that information in their reservation.

Next month, Laura Kelly, who is running for governor, will be the guest speaker. The October guest speaker will be Lynn Rogers, running for lieutenant governor, and Nathaniel McLaughlin, running for insurance commissioner.


Colyer concedes, backs Kobach for governor

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, flanked by his wife, Ruth, and Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann concedes the Republican gubernatorial primary to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. (Photo by Scott Canon, Kansas News Service)

by Stephan Bisaha, Madeline Fox and Scott Canon, Kansas News Service

His last real prospects of winning the Republican nomination for the office he holds slipping away one county canvass after the next, Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded the primary race to Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Tuesday night.

That assured his governorship will be among the most short-lived in Kansas history, and that Republicans will send perhaps the state’s most polarizing politician into the fall elections.

In the end, Kobach appeared on course to win the nomination with just 41 percent of the vote and a tiny fraction of a percent more votes than Colyer.

But by late Tuesday, a week after the primary, Kobach’s slim margin still dashed the last hopes of the Colyer campaign.

Now Kobach faces Democrat Laura Kelly, a party leader in the state Senate, and independent candidate Greg Orman in the general election.

Colyer said in a Capitol news conference Tuesday night that the prospects of reversing the outcome of the primary without breeding added discord among Republicans seemed too remote to pursue.

“The numbers are just not there unless we would go to extraordinary measures,” the governor said as emotion crept into his voice. “(Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann) and I will not challenge this in court nor will we be asking for a recount.

“Right here and now,” he said, “we will endorse the winner, Kris Kobach.”

The last attainable goal, he said, rested in pulling Republicans together to maintain hold of the governor’s office.

The announcement capped off a tough intra-party fight among two of its most hard-line conservatives. They differed mostly in style.

Colyer was the loyal and soft-spoken lieutenant governor to then-Gov. Sam Brownback until early this year. Colyer stepped up to the governor’s post when the by-then unpopular Brownback left for an ambassador’s post in the Trump administration. Once Colyer became governor, he agreed with lawmakers to an education funding hike that Kobach blasted as unnecessary and too expensive.

Kobach, in contrast, has marked his career with an eagerness to contest his opponents in ways, and on topics, that have given him a national profile.

He took the secretary of state’s office from an often-overlooked post as recordkeeper to a national platform on his pet issues — illegal immigration and voter fraud.

Kobach has just as often seen his claims on those issues fall apart in public. This spring, for example, his claims of rampant voter cheating crumbled in a federal court case. A judge ruled against his demands of proof-of-citizenship for voter registration and held him in contempt for wrongly enforcing rules rejected by the court.

With Colyer stepping aside, Kobach charges into a general election campaign unsure whether his high profile will energize more conservatives on his behalf or liberals to defeat him. Some polls have suggested Colyer might have fared better than Kobach in the general election.

Colyer would have needed two out of every three remaining provisional ballots awaiting review from county election officials across the state — and take an even more extraordinary margin if the usual number of those votes was rejected.

As his prospects dwindled, Colyer continued challenging how election officials are tallying votes. As late as Tuesday afternoon, for instance, his attorney blasted election canvassers in Johnson County for not including 153 advanced voting ballots where a poll worker believed signatures on envelopes did not match those the county had on file.

Ronnie Metsker, appointed the Johnson County election commissioner by Kobach last year had said Monday that those ballots mostly involved a voter’s parent or spouse mistakenly signing an envelope.

In his letter on Colyer’s behalf on Tuesday, Edward Greim called on Metsker and the Johnson County Board of Canvassers to include 153 ballots that were ruled out because of the signatures.

“Registered voters attempting to vote should not be punished for errors (often of some other person) that do not implicate the intent of the voter or validity of the vote,” he said in the letter.

While Colyer lobbed that criticism, he was falling further behind in the vote totals. Kobach called the letter a “Hail Mary.” After the concession, Kobach called Colyer “incredibly gracious.”

By day’s end Monday, after the Johnson County votes were counted, he trailed Kobach by more than 300 votes.

State Senate President Susan Wagle, a hard-line conservative like both Colyer and Kobach, tweeted on Tuesday that a protracted fight over the vote counting could undermine the eventual Republican nominee’s chances in the general election.

To prepare for the November election, Wagle suggested walking away from disputes over the Aug. 7 primary.

“Democrats,” she tweeted, “are hoping for a drawn-out litigation process.”

Kansas has no automatic recount provision for primary contests. A loser who calls for a recount risks picking up the cost if it doesn’t reverse the outcome.

Colyer’s criticism of the tallies happening in the week following the primary — “we have to get the first vote right,” he said last week — hadn’t gone to issues that a recount would change.

He had called on Kobach to hand off the secretary of state’s oversight of the election results to Attorney General Derek Schmidt. Instead, Kobach put his deputy Erick Rucker in charge.

Kobach, meantime, held his own press conference two hours before Colyer conceded.

“It’s time for Republicans to start unifying and gearing up,” he said in Johnson County.

He claimed to pose a clearer anti-tax choice to voters than Colyer, and a stark contrast to the way he viewed Kelly and Orman.

“It is so essential that when we march together, we have seen historically, we win together,” Kobach said. “It’s also important to recognize that the other campaigns are already moving.”

Orman, for instance, has begun airing TV ads.

“The longer Republicans stay in neutral, the farther behind in the race we will be,” Kobach said.

“I stand ready to engage in the general election, indeed we’re champing at the bit to get going in the general election.”

Kelly was waiting for him, issuing an attack on Kobach in a statement released less than 20 minutes after Colyer conceded the primary.

“With Kris Kobach as governor,” she said in a news release, “Kansans get all of the failed policies of Sam Brownback plus Kobach’s unique brand of hyper-partisanship and self-promotion.”

Jim McLean of the Kansas News Service contributed to this report.
Stephan Bisaha reports on education for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on @SteveBisaha.
Madeline Fox is a reporter for the Kansas News Service. You can reach her on Twitter @maddycfox.
Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.
Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

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