By Chad Frey
Gary Cobb of Burrton walked out of the Harvey County Courthouse Thursday afternoon with a sticker on his shirt — "I voted in Harvey County."
His wife's birthday falls on election day this year. They chose Thursday to go shopping, renew her driver's license — and vote because they were there.
"It's convenient for us to vote early," Cobb said. "That's the main reason we did it."
They are not alone. At mid-afternoon Thursday more than 1,365 people had voted in the basement of the courthouse — another 870 ballots had been received by mail.
The early polling station will be open today until 5 p.m., from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and from 8 a.m. to noon Monday.
Regular polling stations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Early voting is gaining popularity in Harvey County.
"We've started to make it more consistent," said Rick Piepho of the Harvey County Clerk's office. "We always start two weeks ahead, and we do it in the courthouse."
Four years ago a small polling station was set up in the clerk's office on the main floor of the courthouse — but early voting was so busy and hectic there were lines of people waiting, and not enough space to handle them all.
Early voting is now done in the courthouse community room, in the basement of the courthouse at 800 N. Main.
Both paper and electronic balloting are offered to those who want to cast their votes before Tuesday.
Some who are voting early, like Cobb, are doing it out of convenience. Others, like Mark Hall of Newton, chose to vote early to avoid possible lines at polling stations.
"This is quicker," Hall said. "I'm in and out."
Lines might be a concern come Tuesday, as a high voter turnout is expected in Kansas. Secretary of State Kris Kobach predicts approximately 1.2 million Kansas voters will turn out to vote in the general election this year.
"There are 1,771,539 Kansans registered to vote," said Secretary Kobach. "I expect that roughly 68 percent will cast a ballot in this presidential election before the polls close on Tuesday."
Piepho said he expects Harvey County to beat the state averages.
"This is a bigger election because of the national elections," Piepho said. "Turnout will be higher."