Election Commissioner expects nearly 100,000 JoCo residents to vote by mail in August primary

Election Commissioner Connie Schmidt says Johnson County is on pace to record nearly 100,000 early ballots cast by mail for the August primary.

Close to 100,000 people are expected to vote by mail in the Aug. 4 primary election in Johnson County, said Johnson County Election Commissioner Connie Schmidt.

That’s nearly four times the amount of Johnson County voters who voted early in the 2018 midterm — an election that saw relatively high turnout itself. It’s also considerably higher than the overall turnout in the 2016 primary election.

“It is going to be a record-setting advance [voter] turnout at Johnson County,” Schmidt said.

This year, to push for more mail-in voting in order to prevent crowding at the polls on Election Day, the Johnson County Elections Office took an unprecedented step by sending out mail-in ballot applications to every registered voter in the county for both the primary and general elections this year.

“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,” Nathan Carter, elections office administrator, said previously.

MAKING IT WORK

To meet the demand for more mail-in ballots and to fill the shoes of the usual election workers who have opted to sit this one out for personal health reasons, Schmidt said the Elections Office had to reach out to other departments in the county government for help. Some employees from different departments who were temporarily cut have been enlisted to bridge that gap.

Kansas voters can cast advance ballots at their county election office or deliver their mail ballots. Photo credit Stephen Koranda/Kansas News Service.

“It’s just been a wonderful silver-lining to me, I think given the entire process,” Schmidt said.

While the office is prepared to send out mail-in applications to all registered voters for any elections that fall during the pandemic, Schmidt said it’s unlikely that it will become standard procedure outside of the crisis.

For one, “it’s been a tremendous amount of work,” Schmidt said.

Also, mail-in ballots and applications can get mixed up, creating more clerical work. Sometimes people forget to sign their ballot before returning it. Some of these mistakes or miscommunications could be worked out by a poll worker or office employee, but because mail-in voting occurs asynchronously, those same solutions just aren’t available.

“We have to be involved in this constant dialogue, either trying to call them, sending them something in the mail,” Schmidt said. “We have had an enormous amount of that in this election.”

CASTING A MAIL-IN BALLOT

To make sure your vote is counted by mail, your returned ballot must either be postmarked no later than Election Day or be in the hands of the Elections Office by the end of the day.

If you’re concerned about getting a postmark for that day, Schmidt said you can always return your ballot at a drop box outside of local polling places or at the actual office, located at 2101 E Kansas City Rd. in Olathe.

Early voting is still available in-person at a number of local polling places.