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Noonletter, Oct. 24, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Leading by a neck

Election soothsayer fivethirtyeight.com, the respected outfit run by former New York Times poll analyst Nate Silver, projects that Secretary of Kris Kobach has a two-in-three chance of being the next governor of Kansas.

The site looks at a collection of polls, weights them for their thoroughness and track record of accuracy and then sets odds on races. Yes, in the days leading up to the 2016 election, it predicted Hillary Clinton was probably going to win the presidency. But its guess at the popular vote was pretty much on target.

By its latest estimations, Kobach would win the governor’s race with 45 percent of the vote. It sees Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly landing with about 42 percent of the vote. Greg Orman, the independent Kansas City area businessman, would end up with just shy of 12 percent of the vote and stands a less than one-in-100 chance of winning the race.

This Public Policy Polling survey shows more of a deadlock at the top: Kobach, 41 percent; Kelly 41 percent; Orman, 10 percent; Libertarian Jeff Caldwell, 2 percent; unsure, a measly 6 percent. Margin of error: 4 percent.

Pay no attention to the poll numbers behind that curtain

Orman don’t need no stinkin’ polls. As calls for him to step out of the race pile up — mostly from people who think he’s a spoiler bound to draw just enough votes from independents and Republican moderates to block Kelly from a win — Orman insists he’s not giving up.

He posted a video to YouTube on Tuesday as an implicit rejection to that idea. His message: Republicans and Democrats are a mess. It’s a loss for Kansas if either party wins.

“If there was another candidate with my experience, I wouldn’t worry so much,” he says in his talking-to-the-camera 30-second spot. “I won’t back down.”

Does early mean more?

We’re voting earlier. It’s a national trend driven partly by changes in state rules that increasingly let people vote by mail or go to polling places before Election Day. (That early walk-up voting is happening in Kansas now through noon on Nov. 5, the Monday before Election Day, in most counties. Look here for details.)

Pushing for early votes has also become an increasingly popular strategy by campaigns. The sooner they can get a voter to cast a ballot, the less chance that bad weather or other E-Day unforeseeables can get in the way. Meantime, polls show the tribalism of 2018 politics also reflects more enthusiasm about voting. We all want to at least cancel out our brother-in-law.

It’s a fad even Kansas is in on. The secretary of state’s office, Stephen Koranda reports, says more than 30,000 Kansans have already voted in person or by mail. Some counties have broken registration records.

Notable as well is that Democrats have requested ballots, and mailed them in, roughly at the same rate as Republicans. Usually, Republicans beat Democrats on that metric in Kansas. So that could be a sign that Team Blue is particularly fired up to pull a Bucknell/Bradley/Northen Iowa over Team Red.

Or it could simply be that voting patterns are changing. This could just be time-shifting.

“Those people who would turn out on Election Day anyway, they’re mostly now voting before Election Day,” University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller told Koranda. “That’s really messing up looking at early voting trends.”

Obama FCC, meet Trump FCC

Nomin Ujiyediin alerted you that this might happen. On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (headed by President Donald Trump-appointed chairman and member of Class of ’90 Parsons, Kansas, High School Aji Pai) reversed an Obama-era rule designed to tempt smaller operators into the wireless internet business.

The new FCC says selling wireless licenses to cover bigger chunks of an area should entice the big telecoms to spend more on their coming 5G networks. Small operators say it could price them out of auctions, and leave rural customers in the lurch. Ujiyediin explains.

The DMV will be a breeze now, honestly.

Kansas drivers can now renew their driver’s licenses online.

The Kansas Department of Revenue launched its troubled and long-awaited “iKan” driver’s license renewal software on Tuesday.

State officials think letting some people avoid going to DMV offices will reduce the lines, and the hell, for those who still need to go to DMV offices. One can hope.

Blame the students

Kansas college towns aren’t as poor as earlier analyses by the U.S. Census Bureau suggested.

For years, all those young people piling up student loans and living off campus polluted the picture of how many truly poor people lived in places such as Manhattan, Lawrence and Pittsburg.

Stephan Bisaha reports that when the bureau factored out those students, it saw poverty rates drop significantly in the counties that are home to the University of Kansas, Kansas State, Pittsburg State and Fort Hays State.

More fresh bad TV

Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.

 Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As the editor of a statewide news outlet, I aspire to work with our reporters to give Kansans a clear-eyed view of the place they call home. That means delivering hard-hitting stories that expose those things that keep Kansas from being the most vibrant, healthy place it can be. You can reach me at scott@kcur.org or 816-235-8023.
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