Archive for Thursday, March 13, 2008

Eudora to get advance voting satellite

March 13, 2008

When it comes time to elect the next president, Residents in Eudora and other Douglas County locations now will be able to do advance voting at locations other than the Douglas County Courthouse in Lawrence.

In mid-February, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed a new law allowing all counties the ability to set up satellite advance voting locations.

The previous law only allowed counties with a population of 250,00 or more, which made Sedgwick and Johnson the only counties that qualified.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew was one of the main proponents of the bill.

He became aware of the need for advance voting satellites in late 2005 after Baldwin held a vote Dec. 22 to decide whether or not to allow Sunday liquor sales.

"We were really concerned about turnout because it was December 22, and I would have loved the opportunity to have offered advance voting in Baldwin, but I couldn't by law," he said. "That really got me thinking, 'why can't I do that?'"

More importantly, it was a matter of allowing as many people as possible to participate.

"To me it was an equity issue," Shew said. "If you take the 3rd Congressional District, which is Wyandotte, Johnson and parts of Douglas, Johnson County in some ways had more opportunities to participate in elections than Wyandotte and Douglas because they had satellite advance voting and we didn't."

Over the last two years, their had not been much opposition in the legislature to the bill. However, at the end of each session, it was being included in other bills that had to do with elections.

"At the end of the session they would take all of the election bills and throw them into a big omnibus bill and that would include something like voter I.D., which was very controversial and would eventually get vetoed," Shew said.

This year, Shew made sure the bill could be kept separate.

"We had great work with our local delegation to push this through and make sure this stood on its own, and it moved quite fast," he said.

Shew said the measure will increase turnout as well as help the county in preparing for staffing issues on election day.

"It encourages more opportunities to participate," Shew said. "We have a lot of voters in Eudora who commute to Kansas City so it's difficult to try to get back to the polling place here (to Lawrence). And If there's a precinct where there's been a really heavy advance vote, we know maybe we don't need as many resources at the polling place."

Technology issues are the main concern for Shew, as the voting database needs to be live so people aren't able to vote more than once at different locations. However, he said it is a hurdle that will be easily overcome.

He will be visiting Sedgwick and Johnson Counties in the coming months to mimic their systems.

Shew already expects a robust turnout this November of over 80 percent, which is right around the turnout for the 2004 presidential election turnout of 79 percent.

In an effort to further expedite the voting process, Shew is increasing the number of poll workers. The county currently has 300 workers, but he would like to see that number grow to 700.

A location has not yet been chosen, but Shew hopes to place the polls somewhere accessible and will look into Saturday voting options, as well.

"It will happen. How it will look, what days and the hours we'll be open are things that we'll firm up, but it will definitely happen for November," Shew said.

For information on voting or volunteering to work at the polls, visit call 832-5182 or visit Douglascountyelections.com.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.