In the final hours of Saturday early voting at the Finney County Clerk’s Office, one woman turned back to the office’s staff before leaving.
“Thank you for working Saturday so we can do this,” she said.
The afternoon was the tail end of the office’s new extended and additional voting hours for voter registration and early voting, part of the office’s attempt to make the polls more accessible to local voters.
Finney County Clerk Dori Munyan said she had received positive feedback about the hours from voters, some of whom initially didn’t realize early voting was an option.
The day before, one man had asked what time the office closed so his daughter could race over to vote, Munyan said. He was glad to hear Saturday was an option, she said.
“He said ‘Are you kidding me? That’s awesome.’ He was really excited. He said, ‘Now she doesn’t have to speed down here. I don’t have to worry about her,’” Munyan said.
Since early voting in Finney County opened Oct. 24, the office has seen higher turnout, averaging 160 to 170 voters per day, Munyan said. Compared to the August primary election, which brought in 300 early voters over three weeks, the results are “pretty incredible,” she said.
As of Saturday, the office had received 1,703 ballots: 279 mailed and 1,424 in person.
Area counties with smaller populations also have seen promising early voter participation. As of Friday, Grant County has seen 490 early voters since early voting opened on Oct. 22, Wichita County 115 early voters and 41 mailed-in ballots since Oct. 29, Greeley County 127 cast ballots since Oct. 30, Stanton County 85 early voters since Oct. 17 and Haskell County 42 mailed-in ballots since Oct. 23, according to their respective county clerks.
The extended hours for voting in Finney County, during which the clerk's office stayed open until 7 p.m. Oct. 25, the day of the Southwest Kansas Gubernatorial Debate, and Nov. 1, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, brought in 128 early voters, Munyan said. Eighty-three of them came in Saturday.
Residents said they were pleased with how the county has handled the election this year, that the process itself was easier than expected and the clerk’s office staff were eager to help, though one man who voted Saturday said he wished he had heard about advanced voting options earlier.
Several residents filling out ballots Saturday were voting for the first time, including Miranda Ferrel, 19, and her mother, Genoveva Garcia, 47, who came to the office together. It took Garcia a long time to vote, she said, but it did matter.
“I got on her saying that it should have been a lot earlier...” Ferrel said about her mom. “There needs to be change happening, and I think we need to vote in officials that we relate with.”
Jose Barillas of Garden City, committed to his Republican ticket, said he voted for the first time so his silence would not be mistaken for acceptance of Democratic policies he believed had moved too far to the left.
Voters came out on both sides of the aisle. Barillas was in favor of candidates that would support pro-life policies but not LGBTQ policies, while Ferrel and Garcia are more concerned with candidates that would acknowledge and take action against climate change.
Garden City resident Collin Altman was most concerned about the next governor’s tax code, wanting to move away from what former Gov. Sam Brownback had done.
Garden City High School teacher Dustin Hopkins said no specific race or issue had brought him to the polls, but rather his desire to vote.
“I’m a teacher, so I can’t tell my students to go vote if I’m not going to do it. It’s just one of those things I feel I need to do … It’s our civic duty,” he said.
Early voting will be available at the clerk’s office until noon Monday. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day Tuesday, not at the clerk’s office, but at residents’ respective polling places. To find your polling place, check out resources on the Finney County Elections page or its interactive polling place map.
Contact Amber Friend at email@example.com.