The Kansas Democratic presidential primary isn’t until May 2, but turnout is already three times larger than 2016.

For the first time, the state Democratic Party used mail-in ballots due to concerns about COVID-19. Party officials announced April 28 that they had processed 138,400 ballots – up from 39,266 in 2016.

Party executive director Ben Meers said he was not surprised by the results.

“COVID presented the point of pivot for us,” he said. “We always thought that voting by mail would increase accessibility for voters and we’ve certainly seen that in 2020.”

Ballots received by Saturday, May 2nd will still count in the primary.

In another major change, the party also switched from a caucus system to a primary.

Kansas would be a long shot for Democrats in the general presidential election. In 2016, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 20.5 percentage points.

But there are several other crucial races, including state Sen. Barbara Bollier who is running for U.S. Senate, and incumbent U.S. Rep Sharice Davids, who is running for a second term.

Mike Kuckleman, the Kansas GOP executive director, dismissed the idea that the primary turnout could affect the November election.

“To put the Kansas Democrat Party mail-in voting turnout into perspective, consider that only 31 percent of registered Kansas Democrats returned a postage-paid envelope to vote in the Democrat Party’s presidential primary,” he wrote in an email.

Of the 1.8 million registered voters in Kansas, approximately 458,000 are Democrats, according to the Kansas Secretary of State.

Kuckleman said he knows Kansas will support Trump.

“As for down ballot votes, I believe with President Trump at the top of the ballot, Kansas voters will vote Republican as they proceed down their ballot,” he said.

A Pew Research Center poll released April 28 shows a majority of Americans are concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic will affect November elections and that they overwhelmingly support voting by mail.

Many Republicans, including President Trump, are opposed to mail ballots. Trump has erroneously said mail ballots lead to fraud, though studies suggest that voter fraud is extremely rare.

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