Too few voters
Published on -8/6/2014, 10:03 AM
There are many ways to interpret the results of Tuesday's primary election. Perhaps the most immediate is the apparent vulnerability of more than a few incumbent office-holders.
Place Gov. Sam Brownback at the top of that list. Pitted against a political nobody, the sitting governor only could muster 63 percent of the votes. Jennifer Winn, whose platform seemed fixated on legalizing marijuana and who only spent $13,000 on the trail, attracted almost 40 percent of the GOP tickets punched.
That is a protest vote if we've ever seen one. Brownback could become the first one-term Republican governor since Mike Hayden in the 1980s. Democrat Paul Davis has the war chest and the moxie to pull off a stunning upset come November.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp also should be concerned. His obstructionist approach allowed another unknown to post a strong showing. Alan LaPolice grabbed 45 percent of the statewide votes in the Republican primary which, again, represents protest votes amongst party loyalists. If James Sherow can attract those protest votes and add the Democrats and independents, Huelskamp could be headed back to the farm.
Sen. Pat Roberts was able to fend off the tea party-backed challenge from Milton Wolf. Despite missteps with finances and social media usage, Wolf kept the 78-year-old Roberts from amassing even 50 percent of the total. If Chad Taylor can increase his name recognition statewide, he could be poised to become the first Democratic senator from Kansas since 1939.
But for us, the most important assessment of Tuesday's results is the number of Ellis Countians who took part. A mere 3,079 cast votes, registering the turnout at 17.4 percent. That is unbelievably poor.
In the race to replace Swede Holmgren on the Ellis County Commission, only 749 tallies were recorded. Martha L. "Marcy" McClelland easily outdistanced Lyle Johnston in the GOP primary and, since nobody else is on the ballot for the general election, will assume the office. Her "mandate" will come from 456 supporters that represent less than 1.6 percent of the county's total population.
You would be hard-pressed to find anybody who lives here that doesn't find something to complain about when it comes to local government. Taxes always will be at the top of such a list. But when only 749 residents will cast a vote for a county commissioner who has the power to affect everybody's tax bill, most complaints will ring hollow.
We can do better than this. We need to do better than this. Lazy? Apathetic? Who knows?
What we do know is a 17.4 percent turnout does not come close to representing the number of local residents who care deeply about the community. Ellis County needs to redeem itself Nov. 4.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry