The Lowest Hanging Votes

During an election season, you will hear two calls to action. Register to vote! Get out and vote! Both are often directed at those populations that don't vote much, especially youth (we're talking about people aged 18 to 24, in this case). But a look at the data suggests that one of these is misdirected. Registering to vote is crucial, yes, but our efforts, even with youth, will find the most return in getting registered voters to actually vote.

We have looked at election returns, voter turnout, and US Census data, and come up with some pretty stark numbers. In Kansas, there are 3 million people. 2.2 million of them are of an age to vote. And just more than 2 million of them are eligible to vote, which is to say, according to the Census, they are either native or naturalized citizens. Of those, in turn, 1.8 million are actually registered to vote, according to the Office of the Secretary of State. We'll do the math for you:

86% of eligible Kansans are registered to vote.

Four of the five largest counties actually fall shy of that mark, going no higher than 82% of eligible voters registered. But Johnson County bests them all with a whopping 97% of eligible voters registered to vote. That includes youth voters, and even if not a single one was registered to vote, Johnson County would still have 87% of its eligible voters registered to vote.

Meanwhile, in the 2014 election for Governor—the race closest to the election this November, when we re-elected Sam Brownback to four more years—Johnson County turned out at a rate of 51%, just about the average for the state. In the primary race that year, with an incumbent Republican Governor and an uncontested candidate on the Democratic side, turnout in Johnson County was 18.6%. In this year's primary, heavily contested on both sides, Johnson County managed a paltry 30% turnout.

It seems pretty clear. Voter registration drives are great, and underpin our society's promise of one citizen, one vote. But voter turnout is where the rubber hits the road in an election. Let's reiterate.

86% of eligible Kansans are registered to vote.
50% of them voted in the last Governor's race.

97% of eligible Johnson County voters are registered.
50% of them voted in the last Governor's race.

What can you do about this discrepancy?

First, support groups like the League of Women Voters who have gotten that registration number so high! They and all the tireless clipboard holding volunteers deserve our thanks. And support efforts to make voter registration automatic, and year-round. The Selective Service manages to catch up to every youth who turns 18, why not the County Election Office? Registering to vote should be a right, just like voting.

But second, now, and before every election, work to get people to apply for an advance ballot, to vote early in person, or as a last resort, to go out on election day to vote at the polls. This is how we change things. This is how you can make a difference.

We have a project to do just that. Learn more about our non-partisan, get-the-people-you-know-out-to-vote-project, Voter to Voter, and sign up to multiply your vote!

Voter to Voter!

Remember, it starts here. With you. Do more than vote.

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