A guide to hoping for the best but planning for the worst when it comes to voting during the 2020 election.
Q: How do I check to make sure I’m registered before voting?
Look up your voting information on the Kansas Secretary of State’s VoterView website: https://myvoteinfo.voteks.org/VoterView. Enter your name and birth date. You can see the address where you’re registered and your polling place on Election Day. You’ll also be able to preview your ballot.
Q: When can I start voting?
It started Oct. 14. That was the day counties could begin offering advance voting in person. It’s also the day that mail-in ballots went out. (Ballots went out in September for overseas members of the armed services and their family members.) All counties must offer advance voting in-person for the general election by at least Oct. 27. If you want to vote by mail, you have to fill out an application. But you only have until Oct. 27 to do so. And you probably shouldn’t wait that long, if you can help it.
Q: Can I still vote in person?
Yes. The polls will be open on Nov. 3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and there are in-person advance voting opportunities that vary by county.
Election officials are taking precautions, such as social distancing, to keep in-person voting safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, but you’ll still want to go at times when you feel most comfortable. As ProPublica reports in its recent election guide, Election Day and the first and last days of advance voting might be especially busy.
Q: I requested a mail-in ballot, but I’ve changed my mind. Can I go advance vote in person instead?
The answer is yes, but you might want to think twice before doing this. If you’re signed up to receive a mail ballot and then try vote in person, you’ll be asked to vote a provisional ballot. It will only count once it’s confirmed you haven’t voted by mail. So while your vote should get counted eventually, you won’t see it reflected in the Election Night totals.
Even if you’re eager to vote, some election officers, such as Johnson County Election Commissioner Connie Schmidt, are encouraging voters to vote their mail-in ballots first rather than going to advance vote in-person instead. Voting your mail-in ballot could make things run just a little more smoothly overall during the vote-counting process.
Q: Do I need to wear a mask to vote?
A: No. Nobody can be turned away from the polls because they don’t wear a mask.
Q: I know there will be social distancing at the polls. But will there be long lines on Election Day and on peak days for advance voting?
It’s too early to tell. There’s intense interest in the presidential election and other down-ballot races. The secretary of state’s office expects record-setting numbers of mail-in ballots. But in-person voting in this year’s primary was similar to the 2016 primary. However there shouldn’t be a crunch from having significantly fewer polling sites. County election officials are still working to confirm polling locations for the general election, reports Katie Koupal, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Scott Schwab. But she says that statewide, the number of polling locations should remain comparable to previous years.
Q: I’m voting by mail. What should I be careful about to make sure my vote counts?
Be sure to sign the envelope in which the ballot is returned. That’s one of the most common reasons that mail-in ballots don’t get counted.
You’ll also want to be careful to make sure your signature matches the one you have on file from when you registered to vote. If you registered online through the state, your signature will be the one on your Kansas driver’s license or ID card. Questions about the validity of voter signatures are another big reason why ballots don’t get counted.
Be sure to drop your ballot in the mail as soon as you can. All ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and arrive at the county election office within three days. And make sure your ballot has the proper amount of postage to reach your county election office.
Q: What’s the deadline for putting my ballot in the mail?
You must have your ballot postmarked on Election Day or earlier for it to count. But the U.S. Postal Service and the secretary of state are recommending that you send your ballot in even earlier to make sure it arrives in time to be counted. The Postal Service recommends getting your ballot in the mail by Tuesday, Oct. 27. The secretary of state’s office suggests submitting it by Oct. 31.
Q: What happens if it’s close to Election Day and my mail-in ballot hasn’t arrived?
You’ll be able to vote through advance in-person voting or in-person voting on Election Day. If you’re on record requesting a mail-in ballot, you’ll be given a provisional ballot that will be counted after the local election office confirms that you did not cast more than one ballot, Koupal says.
Q: What happens if there are questions about my mail-in ballot signature?
Thanks to a law passed after the 2018 primary, you’re sure to be contacted by your local election office if there are any questions related to your ballot.
Q: What if I make a mistake while filling out my mail-in ballot?
A: Don’t try to fix it yourself! As ProPublica points out, trying to correct your own ballot mistakes with tape or correction fluid could result in your ballot not being counted. Contact your county election office to request a replacement.
Q: What’s the best way to contact my county election office if I have questions?
Q: I want to vote by mail-in ballot, but I’m a little nervous about using the post office. Is there somewhere else I can take my ballot?
Yes! Most counties should have a secure drop box where you can deliver your ballot. You can also hand deliver it to the county election office. On Election Day, you can drop your ballot at any polling location in your county. Just be sure you do it before the polls close at 7 p.m.
Q: How can I know whether the county election office received my mail-in ballot?
You will be able to see the status of your mail-in ballot on the VoterView website. If you have mailed it and there is not a confirmation, you should contact your local election office. If it’s Election Day, you can go to your polling place and cast a provisional ballot. It won’t be counted if your mail-in ballot shows up, but if your ballot is lost, you can make sure your vote gets recorded.
Sources: Katie Koupal, Kansas Secretary of State’s office; ProPublica’s Pandemic Guide to Making Sure Your Vote Counts
A version of this article appears in the Fall 2020 issue of The Journal, a publication of the Kansas Leadership Center. To learn more about KLC, visit http://kansasleadershipcenter.org. Order your copy of the magazine at the KLC Store or subscribe to the print edition.
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How to Vote and Be an Engaged Citizen During a Time of Disruption, Conflict and Uncertainty A KLC Journal Magazine Virtual Launch Event and Discussion Join us from 5-6:15 PM. on Thursday, Oct. 22, for the virtual release of the KLC Journal magazine’s Fall Edition with a focus on issues and voting in one of the most unusual elections most of us have ever seen.