Sedgwick County Polls Open Amid Burdensome Snow

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Did you know there was a primary election today? If not, you can join thousands of other citizens who either didn't know or didn't want to get out in the snow.

Despite another 6-7 inches of snowfall overnight, hundreds of election volunteers got up very early to begin shoveling sidewalks and driveways at each and every polling station.

Only one voting station could not open in Sedgwick County. Workers left signs at the Wichita Independent Living Center near Douglas and West Street telling voters to go to a church about a mile away.

"There is no provision in state law that gives anybody the authority to change or move elections," said Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman. "So we go on."

At the Sedgwick County Zoo polling station, the people didn't come. In the first three hours of voting, the zoo saw no voters come through the doors.

Although turnout for primary elections is historically low, the snow made it much worse. There are about 91,000 eligible voters in Sedgwick County. With early vote numbers using in-person and mail-in ballots, Lehman says only 1,500 ballots had been cast early.

"Those numbers were very low before the two snowstorms hit," Lehman said, "so it was going to be low, but it's just been made worse by that."

In Riverside, Theresa Bishop didn't want to dig out her car, so she walked to her polling station at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church... and she was glad to do it.

"It was wonderful. Very invigorating," Bishop said with a smile. "My car is packed. I couldn't get out, so I thought I'll walk. It's my duty, my right, so here I am."

But Bishop was one of only a few. Gloria Dei was one of the "busier" polling stations of the day, but had still only seen 85 voters by lunchtime.

"On one hand, that's a little disappointing," explained Supervising Judge Morgan Stremmel. "But at the same time, we have more energy to focus on the people that do come through the door."

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