Johnson County Still Needs 90 Precincts For November Election

Apr 15, 2016

The Johnson County Election Office is coming up short on polling places to use come November.

Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker attributes a shortage of suitable places to use as polling precincts to heightened concerns about safety and security.
Credit bigstock.com

Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker says he’s anticipating record-high turnout, possibly with more Kansans voting than in 2008.

“We would like to have 285 polling locations throughout our county,” Metsker says. “Right now we’re at about 195.”

Metsker says concerns about safety and security have crossed many places off his list.

“As we consider what’s gone on in our country at large, things like Sandy Hook and Columbine and 9/11, we’ve lost a lot of our traditional locations, such as the local schoolhouse,” he says.

Still, Metsker isn’t sounding alarm bells just yet. He says he thinks the Election Office can get the number of polling places up to 225 before they have to mail out voter cards.

To alleviate an Election Day crush, Johnson County will offer advanced voting in six locations this year, up from four in 2012. Metsker says the county will use the same number of voting machines.

“We may have fewer voting locations, but we’ll have just as many voting machines as before,” he says.

The number of voting machines stands at 2,407.

Also this year, Johnson County plans to roll out a new electronic voter system that allows check-in via iPad called Poll Pad.

“What this does in effect is eliminate that paper, 3-ring binder poll book that you sign when you walk up to the table,” Metsker says.

He isn’t worried high turnout could overwhelm the online voter database because many Kansas counties are already using Poll Pad, as are some of the most populous counties in Florida and Ohio.

Across the state line, some Kansas City voters reported long waits during the presidential primary March 15 due to slow-to-load tablets. But the Kansas City Election Board’s  Android-based check-in system is different than the one Johnson County will be using.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.