Voters stand in line with a vote here sign in front of them.
Voters who came to the Old Sedgwick County Courthouse on Monday waited more than two hours in line, much of it outside in temperatures in the 50s with a 15 mph wind. (Photo by Roy Wenzl/Special to the Beacon)

Heading to the polls? Be sure to use the bathroom first, come dressed for the weather and make any other preparations needed for a long wait in line for voting in Wichita. 

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Busiest times are before 8 a.m., at noon and after 5 p.m. Anyone in line by 7 p.m. will be permitted to vote, no matter how long the line. Unsure of your Election Day neighborhood polling place? You can look it up on Kansas Voter View, a website operated by the Kansas secretary of state’s office. Entering your info here will also allow you to preview your individual ballot.

Wichita voters will cast ballots on a wide range of federal, state and local candidates, two proposed state constitutional amendments and one ballot initiative that could change how Wichita school board members are elected. For last-minute research on any of the offices and issues, check our 2022 General Election Toolkit, presented in an easy to use Q&A format.

County expects 55% of registered voters

The Sedgwick County Election Office expects a repeat of the long waits voters experienced in the Aug. 2 election. Turnout for that election was 45% of the county’s registered voters. Sedgwick County election officials expect 55% for the general election. 

That represents 33,000 more voters in the county. To try and mitigate strain at polling locations, Sedgwick County has hired 200 more poll workers than were present at the primary elections. However, Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Angela Caudillo said that she still doesn’t have an official count of how many workers she can expect on Tuesday. 

“This is a moving target,” Caudillo said Monday. “If you can imagine trying to logistically keep 600 people who work one day a year and convince them to come and not cancel, and convince their kids not to get sick, and convince their dog not to have problems, it would be great.” 

Caudillo last week released a heat map showing expected voter turnout. Large areas marked in red are expected to see more than 2,000 voters pass through, leading to lengthy waits. She advised voters to take advantage of early voting to avoid lines on Election Day. 

Those voters, however, also reported lines. Voters waited more than two hours at the only early voting location open Monday – the Sedgwick County Election Office in the old courthouse building downtown. Caudillo said Monday an additional factor causing lines could be the length of the ballot, which is causing voters to spend 5-7 minutes reviewing on average. 

More than 1 million expected to vote statewide

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab predicted on Friday that nearly 53% of Kansas voters would vote statewide. That translates to a little more than 1 million of Kansas’ 1.96 million registered voters.

This prediction represents slightly less – about three percentage points – than turnout for the last midterm election, when Gov. Laura Kelly defeated Kris Kobach in 2018. Previous midterm elections — 2010 and 2014 — saw voter turnout around 50%, according to statistics published by the secretary of state’s office

Turnout predictions are based on a number of factors, including past voter turnout rates, advance voting data, voter registration rates and public interest in competitive races. 

But the past two years have been anything but ordinary election years. In 2020, voters were motivated by hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That corresponded with a contentious presidential election. More than 70% of registered Kansas voters cast a ballot in November 2020. 

Will primary election momentum carry over?

For the 2022 primary election, voters turned out in record numbers  — more than double past primaries — to vote on a constitutional amendment that would have stripped the right to an abortion from the state’s constitution. The vote came weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to an abortion in the U.S. constitution. 

Voter registration — specifically among young women — jumped in the 24 days between the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe and the Kansas voter registration deadline ahead of the August referendum. 

It remains to be seen whether voter engagement will remain high going into Tuesday’s election. 

Voters who encounter a problem at the polls are urged to first speak to the supervising judge on site at the polling location, and if that is unsatisfactory, also call the Sedgwick County Election Office at  316-660-7100.  The League of Women Voters and the ACLU of Kansas direct people who experience voting interference to contact their hotlines: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) or  1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (en Español, 888-839-8682). The ACLU will intercede on voters’ behalf. 

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Trace Salzbrenner

Trace Salzbrenner is a community journalist for The Wichita Beacon. Follow him on Twitter @RealTraceAlan.

Miranda Moore covers the Kansas Statehouse and state government for The Wichita Beacon. Follow her on Twitter @Miranda_Writes1.