Archive for Thursday, June 29, 2006

County clerk hopes for high turnout Aug. 1

June 29, 2006

If Leavenworth County Clerk Linda Scheer had her way, every primary election would generate a 50 percent to 60 percent voter turnout.

History, however, isn't on her side.

Four years ago, the primary for the fall election generated a 16.3 percent voter turnout in Leavenworth County.

Two years ago, the August primary had a 27 percent turnout.

There's a pattern in off-year elections, even with a gubernatorial race. Turnout isn't as high, Sheer said.

This is one of those years, and even though seven Republicans are battling to be the party nominee to go against incumbent Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, there's only one primary involving a county office. Republicans Sam Maxwell III and J.C. Tellefson are seeking the nomination to run for the District 1 seat on the Leavenworth County Commission.

Despite historical precedent, Scheer is hoping there will be enough election interest to boost the turnout numbers this year.

"It would be nice if we could get at 27 to 30 percent," she said.

This year's primary is Aug. 1, but there's an earlier date prospective voters need to keep in mind.

That's July 17, the last day to register to vote for the primary, or to change party affiliation.

Scheer said her office wasn't planning any special drive to encourage voter registration, but it's been busy keeping voters mindful of the coming elections.

The county will be using electronic voting machines for the first time this year, and Scheer and her staff have been out making presentations to educate voters about the new system.

"We are currently out with electronic machines to clubs and different places," Scheer said, noting her staffers carry registration cards for people who need to get registered.

But, she noted, there are many places where prospective voters can register.

In Basehor, voter registration is available at city hall and at the library.

Scheer also said that clubs or organizations that would like a demonstration of the new electronic machines could contact her office and they'll try to work a demonstration into the schedule.

"We'll try to work in everyone who requests it," she said.

She has worked with Mike Howell, head of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars in Lansing, to schedule a public meeting there to demonstrate the machines.

It will be an open house tonight at Lansing Community Center. The machines will be on display from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and presentations will be given at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

So far, Scheer said, public response to the machines has been "very, very positive."

Whether the machines will have an impact on voter interest is another matter.

Generating election interest is largely up to the candidates, Scheer said.

Scheer said she doesn't really have a sense of election interest at this stage.

A lot, she said, "... depends on if candidates come to town and interest people."

But registration, she said, shouldn't be an obstacle to voting.

"There's so many locations where people can register," Scheer said, noting that "candidates can even register voters when they're campaigning door to door."

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