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Noonletter, Nov. 5, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Waiting for Godot, um, JoCo

The Kansas county with the most voters and the most money has also made its name as the state’s election night slowpoke.

Johnson County results have come in reaaaaaaally slowly in recent years.

When it happened in the last election cycle, county elections boss Ronnie Metsker blamed old machines. After the county spent big on new machines, Johnson County was again the last place to report its results in the August primary. An Omaha-based elections software company took the blame.

For Tuesday, Metsker is promising speed and efficiency.

But Andrea Tudhope explains why we’ve all got reasons to be skeptical that Metsker, an appointee of secretary of state and Republican candidate for governor Kris Kobach, and the county’s election system will get things right.

For starters, a lawsuit is pending over 1,050 voters whose ballots weren't counted in the August primary.

Research conclusion shopping

A University of Kansas study linked tighter welfare rules to a growing foster care load.

The state agency overseeing those programs backed those same new rules. Now, Madeline Fox reports, it’s hired a research team to question the findings of the KU study.

And it turned to University of Maryland professor Douglas Besharov — who’s written for conservative thinks tanks in support of reforms that would curtail some forms of welfare.

Exercising that free speech liberty

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has battled with Kobach in court over his enforcement of a proof-of-citizenship voter registration rule. And won.

Now it’s hitting him where it hurts, on the campaign trail. The ACLU would risk its tax-exempt status by getting involved in election politics. But it has set up a 501(c)(4) outfit that does allow it to play a part in campaigns as long as that doesn’t become the auxiliary group’s primary function.

And that organization is running an ad that’s not flattering to the Republican, at one point saying he tried to defy a state supreme court ruling in a way that was “threatening children with disabilities.”

Sam Zeff reports.

One more candidate

The My Fellow Kansans podcast has told you how the state became so conservative over the last quarter century, how that begat the Sam Brownback years and what’s at stake in Tuesday’s voting.

It profiled Kobach and independent candidate Greg Orman. The last episode before the election examines the down-and-up candidacy of Democrat Laura Kelly. It’s worth your time.

Give it a listen.

Why vote

Real Clear Politics is projecting that Democrats likely will pick up seven governorships in Tuesday’s voting. It doesn’t count Kansas among them. It’s toss-up territory. The last four polls in that race show Kobach ahead by a single point.

Likewise, the number crunchers at fivethirtyeight.com have put the race in the toss-up category.

So if somebody tells you with confidence who’s going to win that race, walk away. It’s unknown. We use cliches for a reason: it’s all about turnout.

The same is true of the U.S. House race between Republican Steve Watkins and Democrat Paul Davis. After spending that’s topped $10 million — if you include independent groups — that one’s still too close to call.

Much of Kansas is forecast to be cold and drizzly on Election Day. That could cut down on turnout. But advance voting is breaking midterm records, so day-of weather might matter less.

Any questions about what you need to know to vote? Celia Llopis-Jepsen has them answered here.

Home-stretch bad TV

If you can stand even more, find more Kansas political ads here.

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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