Lawrence voters were heading to the polls Tuesday to determine the future members of the city commission and the Lawrence school board.
Justine O. Burton, Mike Dever, Dustin Stumblingbear and incumbents Brad Finkeldei, Amber Sellers and Courtney Shipley are vying for three seats on the Lawrence City Commission.
Ariel Miner is running against incumbent Shannon Kimball for a two-year term on the Lawrence school board, and Anne Costello, Yolanda Franklin, Edward (E.J.) Gonzales, Jody Meyer, Brandon Moore and Rachel Stumblingbear, along with incumbents Carole Cadue-Blackwood and GR Gordon-Ross, are running for four seats serving four-year terms on the school board.
Spot checks of local polling places showed a steady but not particularly heavy stream of voters at midday.
Tai Amri Spann-Ryan, of North Lawrence, said participating in local elections helps people stay in the habit of voting regularly. A future voter herself, his 6-month-old daughter, Asha, came along with him and had just woken from a nap as they exited voting at the Union Pacific Depot.
Spann-Ryan said he leans toward candidates who show commitment to environmentalism. As a substitute teacher in the Lawrence school district, a parent and a community member, he said he’ll be interested to see who the next group of school board members will include.
“I have really strong opinions around the school system,” Spann-Ryan said. “I really want to know who to direct some of my questions to.”
As the sole voting location in North Lawrence, the Union Pacific Depot serves community members in the 41st precinct. North Lawrence voters show up steadily each election, volunteers working the poll location on Tuesday said. As of 12:31 p.m. Tuesday, 134 people had submitted their ballots at the polling place.
“This is where so many of the decisions that affect our day-to-day lives get made, so I always try to make it out,” said Kate Schroeder, a North Lawrence resident who was voting at the Union Pacific Depot in North Lawrence.
“Something that I’ve seen with local elections is that the candidates tend to be really issue-focused and just do a really good job of focusing on collaboration,” she said. “And it’s not as polarized as I see the state and national elections being. They really talk about things that they want to do in office instead of making big flashy campaign slogans, so that’s just something that I really appreciate.”
Susan Gronbeck-Tedesco, who has lived with her husband in Lawrence for more than 40 years, said voting is an important part of community participation. “I think that’s what this is: staying involved with what’s going on and trying to make a difference,” she said.
Gronbeck-Tedesco’s voting location, Central Methodist Church of Christ in East Lawrence, had tallied 58 voters by shortly after noon on Tuesday. Volunteers working there said the location doesn’t typically have a large turnout.
Jim and Susan Bateman, a couple who have been married for 37 years, said they make sure to vote in every election. They voted Tuesday at the Carnegie Building in downtown Lawrence, which at 11:50 a.m. had seen 127 voters. Volunteers working there said a steady flow of folks were coming through to secure their ballots.
With Lawrence City Commission and school board candidates on Tuesday’s ballot, the Batemans kept close eyes on issues they’re concerned about, including those that pertains to their roles as owners of Yarn Barn of Kansas in Lawrence.
“We have a business downtown, so we’re interested always in what’s going on downtown, so that’s probably a primary concern,” Jim Bateman said. “Grandkids are school-age, and we pay attention to the schools, as well.”
The Batemans said everyone who is able to should always vote. “That’s your obligation. You need to do it,” Susan said, while Jim said “local elections are where we can have the most direct impact, and we can see the results much more readily than a national election.”
Polls across Lawrence close in-person voting at 7 p.m. Tuesday. As long as you’re in line by 7 p.m., you will be allowed to cast your ballot. Mail-in ballots also can be returned to polling locations or left in dropboxes until 7 p.m. (More info at this link.)
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Election 2023 coverage:
Molly Adams (she/her), photojournalist and news operations coordinator for The Lawrence Times, can be reached at molly (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Check out more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.
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