© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Kansas Democratic Party’s First All-Mail Vote Triples Primary Turnout

Ron Rose, left, of Topeka, and Judy Johnson of Olathe at the Kansas Democratic Party convention in Topeka on March 7, 2020.
File photo by John Hanna
Ron Rose, left, of Topeka, and Judy Johnson of Olathe at the Kansas Democratic Party convention in Topeka on March 7, 2020.

Kansas Democrats’ first use of all-mail ballots, a decision made to encourage voter safety during the coronavirus pandemic, is three times higher than the 2016 presidential primary.

The Kansas Democratic presidential primary isn’t until Saturday, but turnout is already three times larger than 2016.

For the first time, the state Democratic Party used mail-in ballots due to concerns about COVID-19. Party officials announced Tuesday that they had processed 138,400 ballots -- up from 39,266 in 2016.

Party executive director Ben Meers said he was not surprised by the results.

“COVID presented the point of pivot for us,” he said. “We always thought that voting by mail would increase accessibility for voters and we’ve certainly seen that in 2020."

Ballots received by Saturday, May 2nd will still count in the primary.

In another major change, the party also switched from a caucus system to a primary.

Kansas would be a long shot for Democrats in the general presidential election. In 2016, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 20.5 percentage points.

But there are several other crucial races, including state Sen. Barbara Bollier who is running for U.S. Senate, and incumbent U.S. Rep Sharice Davids, who is running for a second term.

Mike Kuckleman, the Kansas GOP executive director, dismissed the idea that the primary turnout could affect the November election.

"To put the Kansas Democrat Party mail-in voting turnout into perspective, consider that only 31 percent of registered Kansas Democrats returned a postage-paid envelope to vote in the Democrat Party’s presidential primary," he wrote in an email.

Of the 1.8 million registered voters in Kansas, approximately 458,000 are Democrats, according to the Kansas Secretary of State.

Kuckleman said he knows Kansas will support Trump.

"As for down ballot votes, I believe with President Trump at the top of the ballot, Kansas voters will vote Republican as they proceed down their ballot," he said.

A Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday shows a majority of Americans are concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic will affect November elections and that they overwhelmingly support voting by mail.

Many Republicans, including President Trump, are opposed to mail ballots. Trump has erroneously said mail ballots lead to fraud, though studies suggest that voter fraud is extremely rare.

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
Stephan Bisaha is a former NPR Kroc Fellow. Along with producing Weekend Edition, Stephan has reported on national stories for Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as other NPR programs. He provided data analysis for an investigation into the Department of Veteran Affairs and reported on topics ranging from Emojis to mattresses.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.