Although Secretary of State Chris Briggs said he expected only 19 percent of eligible Kansans to cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary election, Brian Newby, Johnson County Election Commissioner, said he expects a far greater percentage at the polls locally.
“My initial target when all is said and done was 29 percent,” Newby said on Monday afternoon. “Looks like we’re going to have about 28 percent.”
Advance voting started on July 14, and Newby said the numbers of those casting advanced ballots in person or by mail has exceeded 2008 numbers each corresponding day.
“Everyday has been higher. Everything we’ve done has been higher than ’08,” he said.
There were 342,095 registered voters during the August 2008 primary election. More than 20,000 have since been added to the rolls. There were 362,527 registered voters in Johnson County when polls opened on Aug. 3.
The election office had issued more than 30,000 advanced ballots by July 29, and just shy of 20,000 had been returned.
Newby anticipated there would be a surge of voters who cast ballots on election day as well.
“It just feels like there’s still energy out there,” Newby said on Monday.
In the meantime, the county election office allowed walk-in advance voters through noon on Monday, and mail-in ballots could be returned via mail or through a drop box at the county election office until 7 p.m. on Tuesday evening.
In 2008, election office staff received one walk-in ballot every 28 seconds on average. This year, the mail-in ballots can be dropped through a slot at the election office.
Leading up to election day, Newby said there have been a few distractions.
County Commission Chair candidate John Toplikar cast his ballot in advance at the election office. He reported a problem with the touch screen voting machine. Although he wanted to vote for himself, his final ballot displayed a vote for candidate Annabeth Surbaugh.
Newby said he watched Toplikar touch the screen to register his choice several times.
“I was there when John did it. He did it over and over again,” Newby said. “Two times I said maybe you’re hitting the line right above you.”
Toplikar was able to cast a ballot for himself and the machine was recalibrated as a precaution.
“Touch screen machines are very accurate,” Newby said. “But touch screen technology is not super precise.”
He explained touching anywhere in the shaded area where a candidate’s name is listed on the touch screen ballot will make a selection. Newby said there have been five other similar complaints.
“And it’s always the same race, by the way,” he said. “In all cases the machine didn’t cast the wrong ballot.”
Voters who are uncomfortable with the touch screen technology can request a paper ballot. Registered voters can visit www.jocopolo.com to find their polling place.
Complete election results will be as they become available online at www.gardnernews.com.