In-Person Early Voting Down in Sedgwick County

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Many people across KAKEland did not wait for election day to cast their vote.

In Sedgwick County, they had until Monday at Noon to cast an early ballot at the county election office in downtown Wichita.

At about 11:00 a.m., there was a line out of the election office's door, a line that nearly extended out of the old courthouse building's main-entrance door.

People such as Wichita's Sheila Wright-Moore just avoided being too late to vote early.

"I made it just in time! Yes, I did!" Wright-Moore said.

Wright-Moore had a problem with her mail-in ballot so she traveled from her job in Tulsa, Okla. back home to Wichita, a two-and-a-half hour drive, to make sure her vote counted this year.

"It's important no matter what you have to do to get down here and vote," Wright-Moore said.

People in line with her agreed and also weren't taking any chances.

"I'm going to be gone for the whole week and I didn't want to miss my chance," American Red Cross worker Caroline Hood said.

Others simply wanted to avoid standing in a long line.

"I thought I could beat the crowds," Wichita's Sharon Fry said.

It appeared there was quite a crowd at the election office Monday.

But Sedgwick County Election Commissioner, Tabitha Lehman, says looks can be deceiving.

She says a little more than 22,000 people voted early in person since early voting began on October 24. But that's not nearly the number her office saw in 2008.

"We are only seeing about 50 percent of the amount of people vote in person in advance than in 2008, so that number is down significantly," Lehman said.

In 2008, about 42,000 people voted early in person, Lehman said.

As another comparison: In the final four hours of early voting Monday, about 400 people went to the election office to cast a ballot. The office saw nearly 1000 people during the same period in 2008, Lehman said.

Lehman says overall voter turnout in the county was 75 percent in 2008 and she had estimated 70 percent this year. But she says with the low early in-person totals, she doesn't know what to expect.

But, she says the number of mail-in ballot requests were up this year. The office mailed out 77,000 ballots this year compared to 73,000 in 2008, Lehman said. But so far, they have only received 65,000 back.

"There is still a gap there and we are waiting to see how many come back in tomorrow (Tuesday)," Lehman said.

Wright-Moore who had planned to mail in a ballot says she's happy she voted early in person. She just hoped she could make it back to Tulsa in time so she wasn't late to work.

"I'm going to Facebook all the troubles I had today but I'm also going to say it was well worth it to get the person in office that I want," Wright-Moore said.

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