It’s a strange election year. The Kansas City Royals deep run into October may be affecting early turnout, Halloween is on a Friday night and for the first time in many years, close races are putting Kansas’ November election in the national spotlight.
CNN News has notified Johnson County election officials that they may stage cameras and reporters in the county election night on Nov. 4.
Election commissioner Brian Newby said the media glare won’t change how officials go about their duties, however. It’s business as usual.
“We’ll dress better,” Newby said. “But you probably don’t want to do anything differently.”
His crystal ball is murky, though. He anticipated slightly higher voter turnout than in 2010. So far, that hasn’t panned out. Advanced voting began on Oct. 20, but there are fewer advanced ballot requests and fewer advanced voters this year than there were in 2010.
In 2010, at the height of the Tea Party movement, approximately 50 percent of Johnson County voters made it to the polls. That number included the request of more than 67,000 advanced voter applications and more than 40,000 advanced ballots returned.
By Oct. 27, Newby said if everyone who had requested an advanced ballot sent it back, that would be about 42,000 ballots. It is unlikely that every requested ballot will be filled out and returned.
“In all honesty, we can’t really tell the World Series effect,” Newby said.
It’s difficult to compare today’s numbers with the numbers from 1985, the last time the Royals played so late into October. Advanced walk-in voting is a recent development.
These days, advanced walk-in voting captures a lot of voters. Beginning on Oct. 20, Johnson County voters could walk in to one of five polling stations, fill out an advanced voting application and cast a ballot minutes later.
Should the Royals win out, Kansas City, Mo., will host a parade in their honor on Nov. 3 – one day before Election Day. That could effect turnout as well.
At the top of the Kansas ticket, two headline races are drawing attention from a nationwide audience. That too could affect the election.
Recent polls show Gov. Sam Brownback and Rep. Paul Davis, Democrat candidate, in a neck-and-neck race for the state’s top office. Meanwhile, the race between Sen. Pat Roberts, Republican, and Greg Orman, an independent, could determine which political party controls the U.S. Senate.
Newby said an exit polling company that typically only polls outside of one polling place in Shawnee will host written exit polls in seven different Johnson County polling places on Election Day.
The attention could shift away from Kansas as Election Day draws closer, Newby said.
A headline on a recent USA Today article gave Newby host that attention may be focused elsewhere on Nov. 4. The headline read, “Senate may be decided in North Carolina.”
County election officials will check with CNN News later this week to see if the television network still intends to broadcast locally. Narrowing polls in other states could change the network’s plans.
“We like to be as much not news as possible,” Newby said. “We certainly don’t want our office to be news.”
Election Day is Nov. 4. Voters can find their polling place and check out a sample ballot online at www.jocopolo.org.
Royals, media create unusual election