Tricia Meyer, voted early and Republican, at her polling center in Liberty on Tuesday.
“I think this country has been awakened, and we’ll see a bigger turnout than anybody expected,” Meyer said.
But that was not the case.
Despite a wave of Republican voting fervor, at 11 p.m. voting throughout the Kansas City region kept with expert predictions of lower voter turnout rates typical of midterm elections.
“Advance ballots were more than we expected, but other than that we have mixed reports,” said Tyler Longpine, spokesman for the Kansas secretary of state. Kansas has 1.72 million registered voters, compared to Missouri’s 4.1 million.
From Liberty to Lee’s Summit, Brookside to southern Johnson County, voters had found themselves standing in lines from the moment the polls opened and even late in the afternoon. The seemingly heavy turnout led some to speculate that turnout overall might surpass that of other midterms.
“It depends on where you are in the county,” Sarah Horn, election systems manager for the Johnson County Elections Office, said early in the evening. “Some places are doing well and others are not doing so well. The Presbyterian Church of Stanley had more than anybody else.”
But at 5 p.m. in Wyandotte County voter turnout stood at 28 percent of registered voters, compared to 39.3 percent of registered voters overall in 2006.
In Missouri, doing one’s civic duty came with considerable frustration for some voters. From 7:15 a.m. to about 2 p.m., a malfunction in the database of the computer system used to verify registered voters in the state went on the fritz. The problem caused some voting delays in precincts statewide, while poll workers used other methods to verify registration or find voters’ correct polling places. An unknown number of voters filled out provisional ballots.
How many provisional ballots were cast or whether they might affect tight statewide races is unknown. In the 2006 midterm election, some 7,401 provisional ballots were cast. Of those, 3,282 were deemed valid and counted among Missouri approximate 2.1 million votes.
“Local officials did a great job of working around it,” Missouri Secretary of State spokeswoman Laura Egerdal said of the computer problem.
Egerdal said a failed piece of computer hardware combined with the large volume of traffic on the website created the problem. The office received no reports of anyone being prevented from voting as the result of computer malfunction.
Midterm elections never attract as many voters to the polls as do general elections when the United States presidency is up for grabs. Close to 133 million voters, 63 percent of those registered, voted in 2008 presidential election, compared to 80.5 million, or 37 percent, in the 2006 midterm.
“Midterms are generally much lower in terms of turnout, but this year could be somewhat different,” Mark Joslyn, University of Kansas associate professor of political science said in advance of the day’s voting. “We might expect a little higher turnout for several reasons: bad economic news, the high unemployment. In this election, you have a new energy on the Republican side in the anti-Obama movement among people who are against his policies.”
Whereas the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first African-American president energized young voter in 2008, the midterm does not have possess a personality has electric to bring out young voters. Whereas young and black voters turned out en mass in the 2008 presidential election, they stayed home for this midterm.
In the Kansas City area, voters nonetheless streamed to the polls as they voted on a day of crisp fall weather and clear blue skies.
At 11 p.m., preliminary turnout results for the area:
•Kansas City — 38 percent compared with 41.2 percent in 2006.
•Jackson County — 52 percent voter turnout with 80 percent of precincts reporting. The 2006 turnout was 58.6 percent.
•Johnson County — 49.8 percent compared with 54.7 percent in 2006.
•Wyandotte County — 38.31 percent versus 39.3 percent in 2006.
•Platte County — 50.3 percent compared with 56.5 percent in 2006.
•Clay County — 43.5 percent compared with 54 percent in 2006.
To be sure, as voters entered their voting places each hoped that their candidate or party would emerge victorious.
“We need the Democrats back in there,” voter Leveta Roach said. “We don’t need what we had for eight years. It scares me.”
On other side: “We’ve got to get the Republicans back in there,” said Ima Rahter, motivated by what she called “arrogance in top government officials.”
Jane Boswell, a public school teacher, said the she was troubled by the tone of current political discussion. Boswell said that while she generally votes Republican, she did cast a ballot for Democrat Robin Carnahan in the Missouri Senate race.
“We think that change has to happen overnight, but I’m frustrated with adults who think that it has to happen immediately,” Boswell said. “There are a lot of different ways that can work, but we have to give it time to mellow and see if it works. Right now, it’s like a runaway train, switching tracks all the time.”
For those keeping track, Johnson County has 365,917 registered voters; Wyandotte County has 83,646; Clay County has 153,209, Platte counts 62,459, Jackson County that does not include Kansas City has 216,568 and Kansas City, Mo., clocks in at 228,516.
Reporters Mark Morris and Tony Rizzo contributed information to this story.
To reach reporter Eric Adler call 816-234-4431 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.