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Shawnee Co. sees rise in requests for Advance Ballots by mail

Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 6:29 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Shawnee County Election Office is seeing trends in the voting process even weeks before Primary Election Day with an increase in requests for Advance Ballots.

The spike comes after a mailer was sent out to the more than 96 thousand registered voters in Shawnee County which explains the three options available to them: Advance Ballot by mail, early in-person voting at the Election Office, and voting at one'‘s designated polling Polling Place on Election Day.

"I think not everybody truly understands all three options for voting you know if you haven't requested a ballot in the past you may not really understand that process so we went into a lot of detail to try and make sure people understood all three options," Election Commissioner Andrew Howell said Thursday.

The mailer, which Howell said is a rare action by the office reads in part, “It seems that with every election there is some amount of misinformation that is spread throughout the community, whether intentional or malicious or not.” It continues, “The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic seems to have turned up the amount of misinformation being spread.”

According to the mailer, Shawnee County voters have the same opportunities to cast a ballot this year that’s they’ve always had and it is the right of the voter under Kansas Law to choose their preferred method.

Howell said it’s unclear what impact COVID-19 has on the roughly three times the amount of advanced ballot requests, but it’s a possibility there’s some influence.

"I don't really know the reason why people request I've very rarely had people say the specific reason but I think it's a reasonable assumption that because of COVID people are asking for their ballot to be mailed," he said.

Safety is of high importance in the Election Office because the races must be held.

“There’s some critical positions in the office,” Howell said. Things that have to happen the law doesn’t allow for certain things to not occur so we have to get it done and there’s only a few positions in the office that can do some of those functions and that’s probably the biggest single risk for us to pay attention to is try is make sure our full time staff as well as our part time and other intermittent staff are being careful and taking as much caution as possible.”

The rise of Advanced Ballot requests might also mean some election results could be delayed.

“Due to the extra things that we have to do for COVID I think we’ll be a little slower than we’d like to be that’s just the reality things are going to take a little longer to process we’ve got extra steps that we have to take on election night,” he said.

“Additionally with a higher mail volume we won’t necessarily have every ballot in hand the law requires that you have it mailed by election night but we won’t necessarily have it until a day or two later so there’s probably going to be some additional mail in ballots that we won’t know the number on election night that could also change some numbers.”

Howell added, “You’re gonna wanna pay attention not just to election night but that Wednesday evening at 5pm, Thursday evening at 5pm and that Friday evening should be our last date for those numbers and there’ll also be an update of the additional ballots processed that were mailed on or before Election Day.”

Howell said he is is not sure if the same trends will be around at the time of the General Election in November but for now the concentration is on August.

“I think it’s so hard to tell it changes kind of daily locally at the moment enough that I’m hesitant to project much beyond August at this point I’ve had people ask me that, I don’t really know enough about what it’s going to look like so we’re just going to stay focused on the one we got.”

The last day to register to vote is Tuesday, July 14.

For help with registering or other questions, call the Shawnee County Election Office at 785-251-5900.

If you vote by mail, you must have your ballot post marked by Election Day.

Here are some key dates to be mindful of when it comes to Primary Voting:

July 14 - Last day to register to vote

July 15 -Begin mailing Advance Voter ballots

July 20-31 Advance Voting at Shawnee Co. Election Office from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm (Monday-Friday)

July 28 Deadline for County Election Office to receive Advance Mail Ballot Application

August 3- Advance Voting at Shawnee Co. Election Office from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm

August 4- Election Day Primary Voting from 7 am to 7 pm

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