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Sedgwick County Officials Interested In Open Polling For Future Elections

LaRissa Lawrie
KMUW/File photo

Sedgwick County officials are planning to ask the Kansas Legislature to change election laws to make voting easier.

When people use advance voting, they are able to cast ballots at the election office in downtown Wichita or other sites throughout the county. But on Election Day, voters must use their designated polling location.

Sedgwick County Commission Chairman David Dennis says he wants lawmakers to change this policy to allow voters to use any polling place.

"If you’re working downtown, and your polling place is on the east side or the west side, why can’t we make it easier for you and let you vote anywhere, because our machines will do that," Dennis says.

Sedgwick County had 73 polling locations for the August primary and will have the same amount for the November general election. The office added 10 sites this year.

Dennis says the legislative change would not only make voting more convenient, it could also reduce the number of provisional ballots in each election.

More than 2,000 provisional ballots were used in the August primary. Some were issued because voters came to the wrong polling location. A little more than half of the votes were accepted and added to the final election results.

A provisional ballot is used if there is any doubt about a person’s eligibility to vote.

The Kansas Secretary of State’s office says a provisional ballot is provided if, as a registered voter, you change your name or address within the county and fail to re-register before the election. You may vote a provisional ballot if there is a question about your U.S. citizenship, age, registration or residence, or if there is an indication that you have a felony conviction or have already voted during that election.

Sedgwick County spent about $6 million to upgrade its voting equipment last year, with machines that provide a backup paper ballot.

Dennis says having that paper trail helped during a manual recount of the Republican primary for the Sedgwick County Commision 4th District seat last month.

"We do have a paper trail that does not indicate in any way, shape or form who cast that ballot. But it is able to be audited now, which I think is great," he says.

The recount of nearly 7,000 votes came up with the exact same election results.

Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

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.