Blame it on the weather. Mother Nature had the biggest influence on the primary election this year.
This election, the candidates will be able to blame anything that happens on a blizzard and heavy snows predicted on election day, Feb. 26. The forecast before the election said the area could receive from eight to 12 inches of snow, or maybe more.
We are used to calling everything off for the weather. The Kansas City Kansas Community College baseball doubleheader and field dedication on Saturday, Feb. 23, was called off for snow. Several other events around town were called off, too. The governor was urging everyone to stay home during the Tuesday, Feb. 26, snowstorm to avoid any unnecessary harm to people. Businesses were asked to send workers home early, before the storm hit on Monday.
But, according to local election officials, the election had to be held as scheduled and couldn’t be called off. Wyandotte County Election Commissioner Bruce Newby said he had no choice but to hold it, as state law did not allow him to call it off. His office received a message from the secretary of state’s office that said there was no provision in the law to cancel or reschedule an election. They have had snowstorms before, but didn’t cancel elections.
Kansas has enough of a history for storms like this, that if the Legislature had ever intended that elections could be rescheduled, it would have put a provision into law, Newby said. But it hasn’t done that.
Newby said he remembered a snowstorm back in the 1990s on an election day, where all the election workers showed up, people voted and the elections were conducted normally. Some of the election workers helped shovel snow. A lesser number of voters showed up, he said, but the law required that the election must take place when it was scheduled.
Earlier this week, some observers expected that the snowstorm would cause a low turnout, which would not help the minor candidates. At the same time, the bad weather could give more voice to those who voted advance ballots this year. The turnout was actually surprisingly good, higher than the spring city primary election two years ago.
Locally, voters had the opportunity to vote early, and many did cast advance ballots either by mail or in person earlier at the election commission office. Some were trying to work in a time to vote in advance between the two snowstorms of last Thursday and Tuesday.
State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., said last week he had been planning to vote in advance last Friday to accommodate his legislative schedule. Mark Gilstrap, chairman of the Wyandotte County Republican Party, said that because of the weather, he had been planning to vote in advance Monday morning at the election commission office, 850 State Ave.
The election office and UG staff did an excellent job of coping with a difficult situation. Advance voting on Monday was a good alternative to going out in the blizzard and heavy snow on Tuesday. But some people were not able to arrange their schedules at the last minute to vote on Monday.
Weather has always affected elections. But with the sort of technology we have available to us today, maybe it is time to bring the elections into the 21st century and figure out some safe, secure ways to vote electronically – remotely from home, even – that would see more of a turnout of eligible voters. It would be much better to see 80 percent of the eligible voters casting ballots.
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