© 2023 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
00000179-cdc6-d978-adfd-cfc6d7d40002Coverage of the issues, races and people shaping Kansas elections in 2016, including statewide coverage in partnership with KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, and High Plains Public Radio.

Two Ways For Early Voting In August 2 Primary Election

Deborah Shaar
Advance voting clerk Melanie Callaway begins to process applications for advance voting ballots.

Thousands of people in Sedgwick County are taking advantage of early voting before Aug. 2--and there's more than one way to get your vote in ahead of the Kansas primary.

The printers at the Sedgwick County Election Office are working just about non-stop this week.

They’re turning out thick stacks of envelopes, thousands of them, addressed with the names of registered voters. Election workers are stuffing the envelopes with advance voting ballots to go out in the mail beginning Wednesday.

County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman says voting by mail is the start of the early voting period in Kansas.

Credit Deborah Shaar / KMUw
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman

"They have to be back in our office by 7 p.m. on election night," she says. "So we recommend, though, with changes in the postal system, that as soon as you get [the ballot], you vote it and return it because it does take some time now."

You have to request an advance voting ballot in order to get one. The form is fairly simple to fill out, and requires a driver’s license or ID card number and a signature.

The applications are available at the Sedgwick County Election Office in downtown Wichita, online, and if you call the office and request one, they’ll mail it to you.

"People can still apply even up to the Friday prior to the election," Lehman says. "We really strongly recommend you not wait that long, again, because we can’t guarantee that ballot is going to get to you or that we will receive it back once you receive it in time to count. But if you want that ballot by mail, we recommend you do it right away."

Another way to vote early is by casting your ballot in person. The Sedgwick County Election Office and 15 other sites around the county will be open for voting beginning July 20.

Just like on Election Day, voters can choose to use a paper ballot or an electronic voting machine.

"On Election Day, you have to go to your designated polling location. In early voting, anyone within Sedgwick County can go to any one of those locations and vote because it will be a computerized check-in so we can look you up anywhere within the county and all the ballots will be available across the county," Lehman says.

Lehman says about 20 percent of registered voters participated in advance voting during the last three primary elections. She expects the same turnout this year.

"One of the reasons we have a lot of early and advanced voting options for voters in Sedgwick County is because we have limited voting resources and limited polling locations," Lehman says. "So this is a way for them to be able to vote early, release some of that congestion at the polling place on Election Day and then hopefully make it much more convenient for the voter."

Credit Hugo Phan / KMUW
Voters who want an advance ballot must fill out an application from the Sedgwick County Elections Office.

The League of Women Voters Wichita-Metro chapter supports and recommends early voting for elections.

Betty Ladwig, the chapter’s voting services chair, says advance voting makes it easier for people who have health problems or schedule conflicts on Aug. 2.

"It’s a convenience especially if you know you are going to be out of town, or that you have surgery scheduled or you’ve got a conflict," Ladwig says. "What it does is keeps you from having to wait in line."

Ladwig and other members of the League have been busy holding voter registration drives for the past few months. They’ve signed up new voters at a lot of places, including Riverfest, churches and Wichita high schools.

Ladwig says the demand for registration drives at the high schools is up this year, which makes her happy.

"This is a priority as far as I’m concerned because this is where the future of our country is with these young people," she says. "They are so excited about being able to vote for the first time."

Beyond the schools, Ladwig says she’s still getting requests for voter registration drives just about every week.

The League is planning more in the coming months, and will step up their activities on National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 27. Getting people registered to vote is the first step. Ladwig says the League is also holding forums so voters can learn about candidates and issues.

"It’s very important to vote, but it’s very important to vote and know what you are voting for and what those folks stand for," she says.

Credit Sedgwick County Election Office

Lehman is also noticing the increased interest in the elections this year. She says Sedgwick County might see upwards of 80 percent voter turnout for November’s general election.

The office added four staff positions this year. She says that’s helped them stay on track with deadlines and prepare for the high turnout expected.

Lehman is gauging the data from past elections to make sure they have enough paper ballots at each polling place.

"For this election, our county print shop is printing those," Lehman says. "So if we get to that point, we train our election workers that if they use two-thirds of their ballots to call us, and we’ll get more deployed. So if it looks like we’re going to even come close to running low, we can just call the print shop, and they’ll print more ballots for us, and we’ll get them deployed."

It costs more than 30 cents a ballot to print, so Lehman says they’re trying to balance voters’ requests and the financial responsibility of not wasting taxpayer money by printing more ballots than are needed.

The county is in the process of buying new electronic voting machines, but they won’t be used until next year, after this busy election cycle.

Below is an example of a sample ballot for the Republican and Democratic primary. To find a ballot for your district, visit myvoteinfo.voteks.org.


To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar


Deborah joined the news team at KMUW in September 2014 as a news reporter. She spent more than a dozen years working in news at both public and commercial radio and television stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Detroit, Michigan. Before relocating to Wichita in 2013, Deborah taught news and broadcasting classes at Tarrant County College in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.