This Election Moved Kansas Forward

Thank you all who voted last Tuesday on 2017's annual Election Day. Turnout was good for a local election, though not as good as it could be, given the importance of local elected officials. The results were also good for Kansas, as by and large, the candidates elected will stand for the values we support: good governance, quality public education, healthy communities and sustainable fiscal policies.


Of the 46 candidates that our political action committee, MainPAC, recommended in Johnson County, 37 won their race. That's 80% of our recommended candidates in office! Congratulations are due the candidates and their volunteers for the results, and we are in awe of the work they put in knocking on doors, calling voters, connecting with their communities and getting out the vote.

MainPAC's promotions and recommendations were seen by nine thousand voters in the lead up to Election Day, with over 2,000 on election day itself. In the race for Johnson County Community College Trustee, all four of our recommended candidates won their races, with the next finisher behind by 6,000 votes! Several candidates for city offices won over candidates backed by extremists in Kansas politics, including Justin Adrian and Lindsey Constance in Shawnee, whose opponents had the backing of Kansas State Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook, and the race for Overland Park Mayor, where ultra-conservative Charlotte O'Hara lost by almost 30%.

In Douglas County, MainPAC recommended candidates won 8 of the 10 races. In Wyandotte County, MainPAC candidates won only 5 of the 12 races.


While we don't have statewide data, as the Secretary of State's Office does not publish local results, we have examined the data for the five most populous counties in Kansas: Douglas, Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee, and Wyandotte.

  2015 turnout 2017 turnout Change
Douglas 17% 22% +5%
Johnson 10% 17% +7%
Sedgwick 16% 8% -8%
Shawnee 13% 19% +6%
Wyandotte 15% 24% +9%

Turnout was higher this year than in the last local election (April 7, 2015), in every county but Sedgwick, with Wyandotte rising the most, 9%, and Johnson up 7%. The number of registered voters were up in those counties, too, but also in Sedgwick, with all three counties up 9%. Without exception, registered voter numbers are lower this year than they were in the 2016 Presidential election, as was turnout. Presidential election turnout was between 63% and 73% across the five counties.

More people wanted to vote, and more people actually voted in this election than in past local elections. In the four counties where numbers were up, 48,000 more ballots were cast.

Are these numbers indicative of a trend? Did the 2016 Presidential election result in increased engagement by voters? It's just too hard to tell, honestly. While we can make some generalizations about a nationwide, or even statewide election, local elections are driven by so many local particulars that it difficult. Why did elections in Wichita draw so many fewer voters this year? If we looked even further, at local elections in 2013 or 2011, there would be circumstances we would not be able to account for, like weather, or the popularity of local bond initiatives.

Was it enough?

We have noted (once or twice) the importance of these local races, not just because of their influence on lives at the local level, but for their potential to jumpstart new candidates into a career in public service. Many of the communities in Johnson County will move ahead with government that works for ALL the people, not just special interests or narrow ideologies. But just as important is the entry of two dozen new faces into Kansas politics. We will be watching their careers with great anticipation.

The data we used for this analysis, with links, is included below.

Do more than vote: get informed, get involved, make a difference.


2017 General Election results:

While comparisons to previous elections are difficult, since this is the first local election held in the Fall (they used to be held in the Spring), and local circumstances (say a highly contested school board race) can skew the trends, this year's numbers are definitely higher:

What can the 2016 Presidential election numbers tell us? Only that Presidential elections are popular, with more voters registered and turnout hovering at or just below 70% in 2016.

The raw numbers of votes cast is also an interesting data point:

  • Douglas - 3,894 more ballots cast in 2017 than 2015
  • Johnson - 30,320 more
  • Sedgwick - 20,613 fewer
  • Shawnee - 6,577 more
  • Wyandotte - 7,560 more
  • Total: 48,351 more, or 27,738 counting Sedgwick
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