KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) - - An election cycle unlike any other has broken more than one record in the metro’s two largest Kansas counties.
Advance voting is nothing new for Kansas. But COVID-19 prompted election officials to expand the number of places and ways to do that, both in-person and by mail.
No longer did people need to rely on the United States Postal Service. Kansas set up 24-hour drop boxes. Wyandotte County had five. Johnson County had eight and added three new advance voting locations.
“They could just come up here and boom, just slip their advance ballot in the drop box. And I think that encouraged a lot of people to vote that maybe wouldn’t have otherwise,” described Unified Government spokesman Mike Taylor. “It was so super easy to vote if you were interested in voting.”
Add pandemic health risk to convenience and you get record early voting.
In Wyandotte County, 66% of people who voted cast their ballots before Election Day.
In Johnson County, that number was 80%.
Once the traditional day-of votes were tallied, a record was also set in Wyandotte county for overall vote count.
“We were all excited because Wyandotte County traditionally has had a low voter turnout,” said Taylor of the reaction at the Wyandotte County Election Office.
As a percentage of active registered voters, the turnout in Wyandotte County was 67%. (Tuesday night the election commissioner reported that figure as 74% but corrected the number on Wednesday.)
In Johnson County that figure was almost 82%.
Asked for his perspective on the reason for the record turnout, Taylor noted it’s not just about the fervor surrounding who will be the next U.S. President.
“The heightened political environment that we are in right now encouraged more people to pay attention and get out and vote,” Taylor speculated. “A lot of our different organizations, whether it was Democrats or Republicans, got more involved in pushing this out. And I don’t think it was just [the] presidential [race]. You had a major Senate race. You had Sharice Davids for Congress up for re-election.”
In both Kansas Counties, the next highest turnout was the 2008 election, the first time Barack Obama ran for president of the United States.
For Wyandotte County election officials, the cause for celebration isn’t who wins a race but how many participated.
“We were just glad to see so many people get engaged in the process and turn out,” Taylor concluded.
The turnout figures above are votes cast as a percentage of active registered voters, not a percentage of total registered voters.
The total number of registered voters includes what are known as inactive voters. These are people whose registered voter postcards were returned to the election office and didn’t provide updated address information to the election office. Many of those have likely moved to other jurisdictions. Election offices, however, do not remove inactive voters from the voter rolls until a set number of years of inactivity have gone by. In Johnson County, it's two years. In Wyandotte County, it's four years.
In Wyandotte County, Taylor said, the turnout is a record regardless of whether votes are compared to all registered voters or only active registered voters.
In Johnson County, a spokesman for the election office said the turnout as a percentage of total registered voters falls short of 2008: 74% in 2020 and 78% in 2008.
Here are a few more data points for Wyandotte County, with percentages rounded to a precision of one.
The political affiliation of active registered voters breaks down as follows:
- Democrat: 41,604 = 50%
- Unaffiliated: 24,452 = 30%
- Republican: 15,937 = 19%
- Libertarian: 752 = 1%
The breakdown for votes cast in the presidential race is as follows:
- Biden/Harris (D): 35,195 = 64%
- Trump/Pence (R): 18,337 = 33%
- Jorgensen/Cohen (L): 1,012 = 2%
- Write-In: 272 = less than 1%