County sees record-setting election turnout

Chad Frey
A record turnout for early voting and mail ballots in Harvey County led to  more than 72% voter turnout for the 2020 election.

The 2020 election will likely go down as a record setter in Harvey County — 17,202 residents cast ballots, nearly 2,000 more than in 2016 and 3,000 more than in 2012.

“Our voter registration is higher than I have seen it,” said Rick Piepho, county clerk.

Nearly all the ballots have been counted, except 392 provisional ballots that will be presented to the county commission on Thursday.

As of Monday, the voter turnout rate was just above 72%, also higher than in the last two presidential elections.

That turnout was fueled, in part, by record mail voting and early voting tallies. About half of all voters made use of either early voting at the courthouse or a mail ballot.

In Kansas, a mail ballot either returned to a polling place by 7 p.m. on Election Day or postmarked by 7 p.m. on Election Day and received by this past Friday can be counted. The clerk’s office did have about 1,200 outstanding mail ballots at the end of election night.

Some of those came in. According to Piepho, 173 were returned to polling places. The post office delivered another 10 by Friday. Hand-count ballots from polling places also were counted.

“Wednesday we put in 400 more ballots, but not many on Thursday. It was mail, and all the ones at the polling places. There just is not enough time on Election night to get them all opened and added to the election night counts,” Piepho said. “... Advance ballots just take a little time to get logged in and checked in.”

At this time, only one race is mathematically in play — there are 135 provisional ballots remaining in the Harvey County Commission 2.

“I don’t know how many of those will be recommended to count or not recommended to count,” Piepho said. “I don’t really recommend, I just give them statutes and guidelines.”

Currently Republican Randy Hague leads by 121 over challenging Democrat Christy Schunn.

“It is doubtful that they would all go for one candidate,” Piepho said.

And not all of those provisionals will be counted. One of the two largest groups of ballots to be decided are from people who were not registered to vote but demanded a ballot anyway.

The other group is voters who requested an advance ballot, then showed up at the polls on Election Day. The state guidance is that if their advance/mail ballot was not returned, the provisional ballot should be counted.

“So far we have not seen any that voted advance and then came to the polls,“ Piepho said.

Provisional ballots will be ruled on by the county commission during vote canvassing on Thursday, which will also make the county election results official.

Local races already mathematically decided include Republican Avery Anderson defeating incumbent Democrat Tim Hodge for Kansas House District 72. The remaining contested races on the ballot were federal races.