Sedgwick County waits to see if voters prefer fall elections

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

"I think it's great, always better when people come out and vote," said Roy Beckemeyer about the idea of more Kansans voting in local elections.

Sedgwick County officials are hoping to find out with this election if voters are more likely to vote in the summer and fall than in the spring.

This election is the first real test in the county of a state law moving local elections to the fall with the goal of increasing participation.

"I think everybody should be involved," said Pat Beckemeyer, shortly after voting Tuesday.  "That's what it's all about."

At the Woodland United Methodist Church in Wichita voters participate regularly in elections, no matter when the election falls.  But will that hold true across the city?  

"It's hard to tell at this point," Sedgwick County Elections Clerk Tabitha Lehman said Tuesday morning.

In 2015 the state legislature moved city and school elections from the spring to the fall, with the purpose of increasing the number of voters who head to the polls, maybe even doubling it.  This is the first local election in Sedgwick County since then to include a mayoral race - the main draw in local elections.

"It's going to be interesting to see as the day progresses if we start getting a significant uptick in turnout or if it's just going to stick around that 10% mark," Lehman said.

While advanced voting returns this year  indicated an increase in the number of Wichitans casting a ballot, the number of ballots cast Tuesday morning fell flat.  Lehman says trying to figure out if voting patterns would mean an increase in the afternoon is difficult with the change in the time of year.

"In '15 we saw more turnout in the afternoon and the evening," she said.  "But that's because we had several inches of snow that we were clearing off the sidewalks."

Voters at Woodland UMC remain positive turnout will be good.

"Just because there've been so many city issues," said Susan Bentson after voting.

"There's so much going on the city right now with the new ballpark and all the things," agreed voter Roy Beckmeyer.  "And the people, I think , have a lot of concerns about the directions the city's going."

Voter turnout is generally reported in percentages.  But, Lehman wants the public to remember we've got 30,000 more registered voters in Sedgwick County this year.  So, even if the percentage of total voters stays the same, that means more people actually cast a ballot.

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