JoCo Election Office encourages voting by mail in August, November elections amid pandemic

The Johnson County Election Office has been working to encourage voters to take advantage of vote-by-mail options amid the pandemic.

To encourage residents to vote by mail in the August primaries and November general elections, the Johnson County Elections Office sent out mail-in ballot applications to all registered voters, elections office administrator Nathan Carter said.

It’s the first time applications have been mailed out automatically in the county, but voting by mail isn’t new. The avenue has been available to any registered voter who has requested it since the mid-90s. In fact, Carter said close to 17,000 people voted by mail in 2016 in Johnson County.

But with the concerns raised by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for advance ballots by mail has only increased. Part of it, Carter said, is because crowding into polling places on election day would violate social distancing recommendations.

“We want to make sure that our voters and our election workers are safe, and encouraging voting by mail will help us reduce traffic in our in person voting locations,” Carter said. “We’re not changing the voting process itself, … we’re just taking that proactive step of sending those applications out.”

With about two months until the deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot for the party primary elections in early August, more than 9,000 applications have already been processed, and that number grows every day.

“We’ll surpass the vote by mail numbers from 2016,” Carter said. “We’re receiving more and more trays from the post office and pulling more and more applications out of our drive-thru boxes every day.”

Voting by mail myths

There are some misconceptions about voting by mail in Kansas. For one, Carter said a lot of people think that mail-in ballots are provisional. All advance ballots are the first to be counted on election night — that includes votes cast early in person or by mail.

Additionally, mail-in ballots are not more prone to voter fraud, Carter said. The documentation necessary to vote by mail is the same as it is for voting in person so no matter how someone is voting, they’ll need to provide their driver’s license identification number and their signature. This information is then verified.

“It’s a well established process with security procedures at every step,” Carter said.

People interested in voting by mail have to fill out a new application for each election — unless they have a disability or illness that qualifies them for permanent advance voting status. However, the advance ballot applications sent out by the elections office have the paperwork necessary to submit an application for both the August and November elections.

Printable mail in ballot applications are also available online. Voters can also submit mobile applications. To vote by mail in the Aug. 4 primary election, applications have to be in the hands of the election office by 5 p.m. on July 28.