Meeting encourages students and community to vote

Nicholas Birdsong

Community members from various organizations visited the Washburn campus on Wednesday to inform students on the electoral process and the importance of voting.

The event coincides with upcoming local elections for cites and school districts across Kansas. Eligible voters would need to register by March 21 if they wanted to participate in the local elections, which are set to take place on April 5. Event speakers encouraged attendees to participate in the upcoming elections.

“Your city council person deals with things that you see, hear and feel every single day,” said Shawnee County Election Commissioner Elizabeth Ensley. “Why don’t people turn out and vote for the spring elections? But they don’t.”

Turnout for non-mayoral local elections is often around 10-25% in most areas. The low turnout rates may be fueled by the lack of readily available information in some local races, according to Ensley.

Speakers encouraged students to make an effort to become more educated about the candidates and issues in elections before going in to vote. Obtaining this information can be difficult in some cases due to the generality of campaign statements, according to Ensley, but local media outlets can be a reliable source for information on candidates.

Several websites were promoted as reliable sources of gaining voter information by Gwen Elliot, Shawnee County Chapter President for the League of Women Voters. The League’s local website,, features some information on local candidates and issues. The website is also a reliable source for election information, according to Elliot.

Attendees asked questions about possible upcoming changes to Kansas voting law. Students asked about a law that would require voters to show birth certificates upon registration to confirm their identity as a measure to prevent voter fraud. Students expressed concern that the move could disenfranchise transgendered voters, whose birth certificates differ from their current legal names and genders.

The event featured a history lesson in Kansas suffrage. The state was among first to grant voting rights for local elections to women in 1861. That makes Kansas one of only a few states to allow voting before the federal constitutional amendment in 1920.

Discussion centered on the difficulty in administering elections for some areas across Kansas. Specific building regulations must be adhered to that limit the areas that polling stations may be located in. Furthermore, rural areas tend to have widely dispersed populations that make it difficult to hold elections in a centralized location. The combination of these two factors may contribute to low turnout rates in some areas, according to Ensley.