Early voting off to busy start

Voting for general election started Wednesday with more than 90 casting early, in-person votes. More than 1,000 advance ballots were mailed out Wednesday.

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October 15, 2020 - 9:23 AM

Poll worker Sharon Utley, far right, takes advantage of a break in the steady stream of voters to cast her own ballot. From left are poll workers Charmaine Sayles, Tom Sayles and Joyce Foster. Utley was the 92nd Allen County voter at 2:45 p.m. on the first day of early, in-person voting. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Voting for the general election kicked off Wednesday with a flurry of activity. More than 90 voters cast ballots in person at the Allen County Courthouse.

County Clerk Sherrie Riebel and her staff mailed out another 1,000 advance ballots on Wednesday morning, with applications still accepted until Oct. 27.

That’s a brisk start to early voting, Riebel said. 

Kansas allows multiple ways to vote. Voters can request advance or absentee ballots, or vote early in person, or at the polls on Nov. 3. 

In the 2016 presidential election, the county received about 1,313 total advance and early in-person ballots, according to Register archives. Requests for advance ballots have already nearly matched that number and Riebel expects to exceed it significantly, likely prompted by the coronavirus to take advantage of advance voting options. 

In-person voting, which is offered at the courthouse basement, is outpacing the primary election in August, which also saw an increase in early voting because of the pandemic. 

Some voters may be wary of sending ballots through the mail system, amid reports of delays. Riebel encourages those who are concerned to mail their applications and ballots as quickly as possible, to ensure plenty of time for delivery.

Riebel said she believes complaints about the postal service are unfounded.

“Our Postal Service has been awesome to work with. I feel bad they are getting a bad rap,” Riebel said. “The Iola Post Office has gone above and beyond to make sure things are right.”

For those who are still concerned about timely delivery of advance ballots, two drop boxes also are available. They are located at the Allen County Ambulance Station at 808 Osage St. in Humboldt, and on the north side of the courthouse. The Humboldt drop box will open today, but the courthouse location will not be open until Monday because of the Farm-City Days activity in the area.

You can also deliver advance ballots to the clerk’s office or the polling station in the courthouse basement, during business hours.

Ways to vote

Early, in-person voting

To vote ahead of the election, go to the basement of the Allen County Courthouse at 1 N. Washington Ave. You’ll need to show your photo ID, such as a driver’s license, and abide by coronavirus safety precautions. Poll workers will use plexiglass shields, provide voters with stylus pens and sanitizer, and will require social distancing.

Early voting is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until Oct. 23. It will be available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 26 through Oct. 30, the last week before the election, and from 8 a.m. to noon Nov. 2.

Advance or absentee ballots

Those who want to avoid lines or the risk of possible exposure to infection, and those residents who will be out of the county during the election season (such as college students living in a dorm) can request an advance or absentee ballot.

The process is simple. Go to allencounty.org, click on “county clerk” under the departments tab and find the link for “Advance Application.” Fill out the form and sign it. You can mail it to the clerk’s office at 1 N. Washington Ave, Iola KS 6679, or deliver it to the clerk’s office. You can also scan the completed application and email it coclerk@allencounty.org. The application must be received by the clerk’s office by Oct. 27.

After the application is processed, the clerk’s office will mail a ballot to voters. Complete the ballot, making sure to read and follow all instructions. Then, drop it in the mail, or deliver it to one of the county’s two drop boxes, or deliver it to the clerk’s office at the courthouse.

Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 to be counted.

At the polls

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3. Be prepared to practice social distancing and abide by coronavirus safety precautions. Also, be prepared to show a photo ID, such as a driver’s license.

Allen County has four polling locations: North Community Building, 505 N. Buckeye; Humboldt Methodist Church, 806 N. Ninth St.; Moran Senior/Community Center, 407 N. Cedar; and Gas Community Center, 624 W. Pine.

Provisional ballots

For various reasons, some ballots may be rejected.

That’s very unusual, Riebel said, and every effort is made to ensure votes will be counted.

If there is any doubt to a voter’s qualifications, they’ll be issued a provisional ballot. 

A provisional ballot will be issued if a voter changed their name or address and failed to re-register. It could also be issued if there is a question as to the voter’s citizenship, age, registration or residence, if you have a felony conviction, if you failed to provide a photo ID or have already voted during that particular election. 

Those who are issued a provisional ballot will also be given a voter registration card to fill out and ensure proper registration for the next election.

Provisional ballots are not counted during the election and are set aside to be examined during the official canvass.

After the election, county commissioners will meet with Riebel to study the circumstances of the provisional ballot and determine if it should be counted. The state provides specific guidelines as to which ballots should be counted.

Most of the time, those ballots qualify to be counted, Riebel said. For example, in the August primary, Allen County considered 40 provisional ballots and only eight were rejected.

Track your ballot

The county’s website allows voters to easily find information about their registration status and status of advance ballot requests as well as voting history.

Just go to allencounty.org and click the large red link “Check Election Status.” Enter your name and birthdate, then hit the “enter” button to find the information. 

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