Here’s how to cast your vote in Johnson County for the 2020 general election, amid USPS controversies and COVID-19

With USPS controversies and COVID-19 on the mind, the Shawnee Mission Post is answering frequently asked questions about voting in the upcoming 2020 general election. Above, an example of protective measures being taken for poll workers. Photo via Johnson County Election Office Twitter.

As the nation nears November and the 2020 general election, there is a slew of questions about how to best cast votes this fall.

The Shawnee Mission Post is answering some frequently asked questions (we’ve both heard from readers and, frankly, that we had ourselves) in order to prepare Johnson Countians for Nov. 3.

The COVID-19 will loom over the electoral process and could cause major disruptions to in-person voting. There are also highly politicized controversies still raging over the management of the U.S. Postal Service.

Here’s what you need to know to cast your vote:

What are the important deadlines I need to know to be registered and prepared to vote in the 2020 general election?

Johnson Countians can still register to vote or change their registration ahead of the 2020 general election.

Registration can be completed via mail, fax, email and text message no later than Oct. 13. Details on how to register to vote, where to download an application and registration requirements can be found online here.

Other important deadlines to know:

  • Advance voting by mail begins Oct. 14
  • Advance voting in person begins Oct. 17
  • Advance ballot application deadline is Oct. 27, at 5 p.m.
  • The general election is on Nov. 3, with polls open for in-person voting from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Johnson County Election Office encourages voters to check their registration and ensure their address is correct. Voter registration can be checked online here.

What are my options for voting this year?

The Johnson County Election Office has a video explaining its three-step process for in-person voting. You can check that out here. Picture via Johnson County Election Office Facebook page.

Johnson Countians have three options for voting:

  • vote early by mail
  • vote early in-person
  • vote in-person on Election Day.

Applications for an advanced voting ballot can be found online here, and can be faxed or emailed to the county election office.

Voters can also opt for advance in-person voting. Advance voting polling locations — which will be open for voting on dates between Oct. 17 to Nov. 2 — are as follows:

  • Arts and Heritage Center,  8788 Metcalf Avenue
  • Hilltop Conference Center, 7700 W. 143rd Street
  • Johnson County Election Office, 2101 E. Kansas City Road
  • Johnson County Northeast Offices, 6000 Lamar Avenue
  • Johnson County Sunset Office Building, 11811 S. Sunset Drive
  • New Century Fieldhouse, 551 New Century Parkway
  • Okun Fieldhouse, 20200 Johnson Drive

Date and times for the above advance in-person voting polling places can be found here.

If I want to vote by mail, where can I drop off my ballot?

Those who wish to vote by mail can return their ballots via mail, or hand deliver ballots to the Johnson County Election Office or a polling location.

For mailed ballots to count, they must meet the following requirements, outlined by the Johnson County Election Office website:

  • Mail-in ballots need to be postmarked on or before Election Day (Nov. 3, 2020).
  • Mail-in ballots must also be received by the election office by Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. The only exception is if additional time is allowed from the Kansas secretary of state’s office.
  • If a ballot is hand-delivered, it must be received before 7 p.m. on Election Day either at the election office drop-box or a polling place. Additionally, it can be turned into a polling place during voting hours on Election Day.
Above, the 24-hour, drive-thru drop boxes at the Johnson County Election Office, 2101 E. Kansas City Road. Picture via Johnson County Election Office Facebook page.

The Johnson County Election Office, 2101 E. Kansas City Road, has a 24-hour, drive-thru drop box available at the front entrance for ballots.

The election office also says it is working on adding drop boxes at more locations for the general election — something Gov. Laura Kelly is recommending all counties do ahead of Nov. 3 in an effort to avoid potential issues with the U.S. Postal Service.

Where can I find a polling place?

Johnson Countians can find their designated polling place online. Voters are encouraged to double-check their polling location before each election, as locations are subject to change.

Voters can enter their address online here to find their assigned polling place.

Sample ballots can be found in the same location 20 days before Election Day.

What steps are being taken to make sure in-person voting is safe during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Johnson County Election Office has introduced touchless voting and implemented other safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic and also taken steps to protect voters and election workers at in-person polling places.

With touchless voting, each voter is provided with a single-use pen or stylus to sign the electronic poll book or sign a touchscreen or traditional paper ballot. Voters will also scan their own photo identification during check in, and are encouraged not to touch too many surfaces while voting.

Additionally, election workers and voters will be separated by plexiglass. Workers will be provided with face masks, and voters are encouraged to wear their own and wash their hands before and after voting.

Physical distancing and signage will also be implemented at in-person polling locations.

I’ve heard a lot about the controversies with the U.S. Postal Service. Could that impact my ability to vote by mail? 

The U.S. Postal Service has been the center of national controversy following Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s policy measures, including removing mailboxes in some locations. U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids is among those who have called for DeJoy’s removal, even after he suspended the policy changes.

The United States Postal Service can handle the volume of electoral ballots, said Michelle Fitzpatrick, president of Kaw Valley Area Local #238 Postal Workers Union. File photo.

Despite the recent controversies, Michelle Fitzpatrick, president of Kaw Valley Area Local #238 Postal Workers Union, told Davids last month that USPS can handle the volume of electoral ballots. Specifically, Fitzpatrick said USPS could deliver 48 million ballots in just one work day.

Still, the Johnson County Election Office encourages voters to do the following three things when voting by mail for the upcoming election:

  • Apply as soon as possible to ensure your ballot is among the first to be mailed beginning Oct. 14.
  • Take advantage of an alternative return option, such as to any advance voting location or Election Day polling place during voting hours, or the 24-hour ballot box outside of the main election office.
  • Track your application and ballot with the Kansas Secretary of State Voter View tool found here. Tracking capabilities will begin in late September.