Secretary of State Kris Kobach expects Democrats participating in their rare contested gubernatorial primary will propel statewide voter turnout to a 10-year high-water mark.
With five days remaining before the primary election, early votes have already exceeded the totals in 2010 and 2014, Kobach announced Thursday.
He predicted 468,500 Kansans will fill out a ballot, which would be 26 percent of the 1.8 million registered voters. Only 20.2 percent turned out four years ago, when Republican Gov. Sam Brownback was seeking re-election and his Democratic challenger, Paul Davis, was unopposed. In 2010, participation was 25.2 percent.
This year, the GOP gubernatorial field includes Kobach, Gov. Jeff Colyer, Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, former state Sen. Jim Barnett, entrepreneur Patrick Kucera, and teenagers Tyler Ruzich and Joseph Tutera Jr. Democratic candidates include state Sen. Laura Kelly, former agriculture secretary Josh Svaty, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, physician Arden Andersen, and teenager Jack Bergeson.
“If you had an incumbent governor in the traditional sense, somebody who had won the office already, you wouldn’t see people lining up in such large numbers in separate parties trying to run for the office,” Kobach said.
The 2010 primary numbers were boosted by several competitive races, Kobach said, including open seats for governor, secretary of state, attorney general and congress. This year is different, he said, because Democrats haven’t had a contested primary for governor in 20 years, and the six Democrats vying for the 3rd District congressional seat has Johnson County shattering records for early votes.
Ethan Corson, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, said high turnout “is proof of what we’ve seen all over the state for over a year now.”
“Our supporters,” Corson said, “are energized and motivated and are seizing the opportunity to turn the page on eight years of failed Brownback-Colyer-Kobach policies.”
Kobach’s elections director, Bryan Caskey, said about 26,000 voters were affected by a recent federal court ruling that proof of citizenship requirements were unconstitutional. Applicants who were placed on a suspended list have returned to the voting rolls. However, Caskey said, a preliminary injunction in the case already had given them clearance to vote.
Kobach reminded voters they still need to show photo identification when they show up at polls.
“I’m very pleased that remains a requirement in Kansas,” he said.
He also encouraged voters to take note of a limitation of voting screens in Kansas that only show six candidates. For races with seven candidates, such as the GOP’s 2nd District congressional contest, voters will have to scroll to a second page. The order of names is random, Kobach said.