Vote by Mail Down, But In-Person Early Voting Brisk For Kansas Primary

Although there is no tried-and-true formula, early voting participation can serve as a barometer to gauge interest and potential turnout for an upcoming election, at least from a directional standpoint. And with the Kansas Primary Election coming up on Aug. 2, at Kansas Voting Data we thought we would take a look into early voting numbers to date, and what that might mean for voter turnout on Election Day.

The early vote in Kansas, including vote-by-mail and early voting in person, begins 20 days prior to the designated election day, and with less than a week before the Kansas Primary Election, we have a nice sampling of data to identify possible overall turnout trends. And while direct comparisons are ideal, recent anomalies have made such comparisons much more challenging, such as 2020 being a presidential election year (when voting is typically heavier), and the coronavirus pandemic, when many voters shifted their preference from in-person voting to vote-by-mail. 

Below, we see a graph comparing early voting in 2020 versus the upcoming election on Aug. 2, with numbers through July 26. Each day’s value is a count of voters that day, and does not include previous days’ activities. If we compare the pacing of vote-by-mail from the 2020 primary to the 2022 primary, you can see that 2022 is lagging far behind 2020, both in terms of ballots mailed to the voter and ballots mailed back.

However, the early vote in-person in 2022 is strongly outpacing 2020:


We would not normally expect a midterm election to equal a presidential election year, as this should be a very low turnout election as a non-presidential election year primary. But we are seeing strong enthusiasm for early in-person voting – even stronger than in the 2020 presidential election year.

Determining the driver for the increase in early in-person voting is merely speculation, as it is important to again note that these data are only through July 26. It is possible that with the pandemic subsiding, more early voters feel comfortable casting their ballot in person (as opposed to voting by mail). But perhaps more likely is the amendment to the Kansas Constitution that will be decided during the election, which allows unaffiliated voters the rare opportunity to participate in a primary election.

And of course, there is the nature of the amendment itself which, if passed, would eliminate the right to an abortion currently guaranteed by the Kansas Constitution, an issue that generates strong views on both sides. Obviously several days remain before the end of early voting, but if these trends continue, early voting may well be the determining factor for the outcome of the upcoming primary and constitutional amendment.