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New Option For Returning Mail-In Ballots In Sedgwick County

Sedgwick County
Sedgwick County plans to install 14 ballot drop boxes in cities around the county ahead of the November General Election.

Sedgwick County plans to install more than a dozen ballot drop boxes ahead of the November general election.

The drop boxes will be placed strategically in cities around Sedgwick County as a convenient option for voters to return their advance mail ballot.

Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman says the boxes are part of COVID-19-related safety precautions for elections. She says the boxes will also help ease voter concerns about postmarks and an overwhelmed postal service.

“We want to make sure that people can get that ballot back to us in time, and not worry about it being late or if you don’t have a postage stamp or that sort of thing,” Lehman says.

She says the boxes are locked, and additional security measures may be put in place. Election staff will visit the boxes daily to collect ballots.

The boxes will be available about three weeks prior to Election Day, November 3, and up until polls close at 7 p.m. election night.

The county used federal grants to pay for 14 ballot boxes. Lehman says the boxes are in different sizes to meet voter demand.

“We know that in certain areas that people vote more by mail than in others, so we want to make sure that we put bigger boxes in areas where we expected more ballots being returned, and then smaller boxes in areas where there may not be as much returned by mail,” Lehman says.

The county intended to use ballot drop boxes during the August 4 primary, but the boxes didn’t arrive in time to be installed. Lehman says the manufacturer had a backlog of orders due to high demand nationwide.

The county was able to install one box outside the Sedgwick County Courthouse on Main Street in downtown Wichita. Lehman said 35 voters dropped off ballots during the short time the box was available during the primary election.

The election office sent out about 56,000 vote-by-mail ballots this year. That’s more than all of the ballots that were cast in the 2016 primary election.

Overall voter turnout for the primary was about 29%.

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.