The countdown to the 2020 general election is on.
This Nov. 3, voting may look different with the country still left unbalanced from the COVID-19 pandemic. Record numbers of Americans are expected to vote by mail to avoid crowds at local polling places.
Melissa Schnieders, Sedgwick County’s deputy election commissioner, says the election office is receiving “hundreds” of mail-in ballot requests each day. In Sedgwick County, 87,000 voters have already requested mail-in ballots, with the number anticipated to grow exorbitantly in the weeks to come. Schnieders estimates the number of advance mail-in ballots could exceed 120,000.
Voter turnout in Sedgwick County was about 29% in August’s primary election, and Schnieders anticipates an even greater response in November’s general election.
Less than five weeks left until election day, here are some frequently asked questions.
Can I vote?
To vote, you must be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years old by Election Day.
You must also register with the election office.
Do I need to prove I’m a citizen of the United States in order to vote?
The short answer: No. Kansas does not require proof of citizenship to vote. Not since a 2011 law was struck down in 2018 by federal courts as unconstitutional.
Now, Kansas did request in June that the U.S. Supreme Court review the case, but until that happens proof-of-citizenship is not required to register.
You’ll still need to show some kind of state-issued ID — like a driver’s license, tribal ID or military ID — when you register to vote.
Am I registered to vote?
Am I too late to register?
Voter registration closes 21 days prior to Election Day — Oct. 13.
How do I register?
If you have not registered before, you will need to provide a Kansas driver’s license or non-driver’s identification card. This can be done online, in person at your county election office, or by printing off a form and mailing it in.
Do I need to update my registration?
You will need to update your voter registration if you have any changes to your name, address or party affiliation since the last election.
When can I vote?
Advance in-person voting opens Oct. 19 in Sedgwick County and continues through Nov. 2.
Advance mail-in ballots will be sent out to voters who requested them beginning Oct. 14.
When is Election Day?
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Fun trivia fact: Many believe that Election Day is the first Tuesday in November. That’s not always the case. Election Day is statutorily set as "the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November.” So in the rare instance when Nov. 1 falls on a Tuesday — like it did in 2016 — Election Day would fall on the second Tuesday. (You’re welcome.)
What can I expect if I vote in person?
With the pandemic still in full-swing, voters can expect to see changes at their polling location should they decide to cast their ballot in person. Schnieders with the Sedgwick County Election Office says stations are equipped with personal protective equipment, including disposable facemasks and hand sanitizer. Poll workers will be separated by plexiglass, and voters will be guided by signs promoting at least six feet of social distancing.
All voters will receive an individual stylus to cast their ballot. Polling stations will also be professionally sanitized three times per day, Schnieders says. Locations will follow Sedgwick County COVID-19 guidelines. Masks will be worn by poll workers, and strongly encouraged for all voters, Schnieders says. Locations will have disposable masks on hand.
What do I need to vote in person?
Kansas requires voters to provide a photo identification to cast a ballot in person. A driver’s license, passport, student identification card or government-issued ID are all accepted.
Where can I vote early?
Early voting is available at the Sedgwick County Election Office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, starting Oct. 19 through Nov. 2.
To limit lines, the county has partnered with INTRUST Bank Arena to host a mega-site for advance voting. The location, Schnieders says, is equipped with plenty of space to ensure social distancing.
Anna Meyerhoff, the county’s central services manager, told KMUW that the arena was selected for its centralized location. Charles Koch Arena on the Wichita State University campus will also serve as an early voting site.
An additional 16 locations throughout the county will be available for early voting prior to Election Day. All Sedgwick County residents may vote at these early voting locations. Visit sedgwickcounty.org/elections for a full list of advance voting locations and hours.
How can I request an advance mail-in ballot?
Anyone in Kansas can vote by mail, but you need to request a ballot.
Deputy Election Commissioner Melissa Schnieders says at least 87,000 in the county have requested advance mail-in ballots, with thousands more requests expected to arrive ahead of the late October deadline.
During the August primary, more than 315,000 mail-in ballots were requested statewide — far exceeding the number received during the 2016 and 2018 elections combined.
Voters have until Oct. 27 to request an advance mail-in ballot.
Where can I submit my mail-in ballot?
A completed advance mail-in ballot may be mailed to the Sedgwick County Election Office or delivered to a number of locations in the county. A mailed ballot must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received no later than Nov. 6 to be counted.
Sedgwick County has stationed 14 ballot drop boxes throughout the county as a convenient option for voters to return their advance mail-in ballot. Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman says the drop boxes are part of COVID-19-related safety measures, and designed to ease voter concerns of an overwhelmed postal service.
Deputy Election Commissioner Schnieders says the drop boxes are secure and voters should feel at ease using them. Ballots are collected from the drop boxes as often as three times per day, she says. Those ballots are also processed daily.
Voters can ensure their mail-in ballot was received by checking online. Anyone worried their mail-in ballot may not have been received may also cast a provisional vote in person.
The U.S. Postal Service recommends voters mail their ballot at least a week prior to the state deadline.
How is my mail-in ballot certified?
Your mail-in ballot will require a signature. This signature is checked against what election officials have on file. For any problems with your ballot, election officials are required to contact you and offer a chance to resolve the issue so that your vote is counted.
Where is my polling location?
You can locate your polling place online by searching for your address. Voters must vote at their assigned polling location on Election Day.
When will voting open and close on Election Day?
Polling places are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election day, Nov. 3. If you are in line when polls close, you will be allowed to cast your ballot.
What is a provisional ballot?
A provisional ballot is used to record a vote when there are questions about a voter’s eligibility. They are quite common, Schnieders says, and occur most commonly when someone goes to the wrong voting location. Provisional ballots are also used if there is an issue tied to a change in registration status, like a change in address.
Provisional ballots are not counted on Election Day but are set aside for consideration by county canvassers. About 29,000 provisional ballots were cast in the 2018 general election in Kansas.
Who is on the ballot?
There are 176 names on Sedgwick County ballots this year. Voters will also decide a U.S. senator in a race for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
You can view a sample ballot online.
Will my ballot be counted on election night?
A mail-in ballot received after Nov. 2 will not be counted on election night, Nov. 3. These votes, however, are still opened, counted and included in the certified election report filed Nov. 16, Schnieders says.
Visit the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office for additional voting information.