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Thousands of county residents are voting early — what does that mean for the overall turnout?

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A few seats on the USD 233 Board of Education and the Olathe City Council are up for grabs in the 2021 election cycle.

Turnout in this round of municipal elections in Johnson County is expected to be pretty high across the community compared to previous years. In a presentation before the county commission on Thursday, county elections commissioner Fred Sherman predicted a “healthy” degree of voter participation for the general election. 

He forecasted a voter turnout rate of about 20% or higher, up from the 17% rates recorded in 2017 and 2019. 

Turnout rates were lower in 2011, 2013 and 2015, but that’s not necessarily a fair comparison because that was before the state legislature moved off-year elections to the fall from the spring. That move, Sherman said, has helped with turnout. Before the change, the participation rate was at most about 10% in municipal elections. 

“Typically these kinds of local year or odd year elections are going to have a lower voter turnout than we see in the presidential years or the even year votes, like next year with the gubernatorial races,” Sherman said. 

By Friday morning, nearly 16,000 ballots had been cast at early, in-person polling places around the county. More were expected Friday and over the weekend. Additionally, Sherman said the Monday before election is also pretty popular with Johnson County voters. 

This municipal election cycle has been a heated one with every seat on the ballot in Olathe and the Olathe Board of Education contested. 

Election results may begin coming in on Nov. 2 but they won’t be finalized until the votes are canvassed. That process will begin on Nov. 9 

WHAT'S ON THE BALLOT? 

In the Olathe City Council and Olathe school district Board of Education elections, there are six total races on the ballot. 

Wayne Janner and LeEtta Felter are in the race for the City Council Ward 3, which represents the southeast corner of the city. Kevin Gilmore and Dean Vakas are running for the at-large seat that represents the whole city. As for the Ward 4 seat — which represents the northeast corner of the city, Marge Vogt (incumbent) is being challenged by Dustin Morris. 

Julie Steele and Jennifer Gilmore are both running for the Member 3 USD 233 Board of Education seat, which is one of two that represents the northwest corner of the school district. Kristin Schultz, who was appointed to the school board in 2019, and Robert Kuhn are on the ballot for the Member 5 board of education seat, which is one of two that represents the east portion of the district. Brian Geary (incumbent) and Brian Connell are in the Member 6 school board race, which is the other seat that represents the northwest part of the district. 

City Council and school board races are nonpartisan. Additional races, including the JCCC Board of Trustees are on the ballot as well. More information about those is available here. 

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