Kan. bill hopes to increase voter turnout

TOPEKA (KSNT) – One state representative is looking at an improved bill to increase voter turnout. This comes a day after low turnout for statewide for municipal elections.
“The voter participation results from yesterday’s spring election is just another painful reminder of why we need this legislation,” says House Elections Chair, Rep. Mark Kahrs.

But just how low was yesterday’s turnout?

“Here in Topeka, voter participation was below 10 and a half percent. Several rural counties did not even have enough candidates file to require and necessitate a primary election,” says Kahrs.

A low turnout is something he contributes to cold weather, limited campaigning, and simply voters being unaware of an election. Which is why legislators are working to eliminate spring elections and move all elections to the fall of even numbered years.

This is a compromise of a bill that was approved by the Senate last week. However, in the Senate proposal it placed municipal elections on odd years. Kahrs wants the final bill to have all of the elections in the fall of even years, with municipal elections being non-partisan.

“There’s no question; spring elections don’t work,” says Kahrs.

“There’s local elected officials who feel that they benefit from low turnout and want to keep it, but the people that we represent, republicans, democrats, and independents all prefer to moving these elections due to the ease of voting one time,” says House representative Steve Huebert.

An ease for some, but not the election offices.

“If elections were held in even years, then that would be quite difficult,” says Shawnee County Election Commissioner, Andrew Howell.

It would be difficult because it could double the size of ballots. Larger ballots mean the need for more staff checking for errors and longer wait times for voters at the polls.

However, “No matter what policy is made, we’ll do the best that we can to make sure that it’s functional.” says Howell.

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