Kansas voters will have more options this year to cast their ballot, easing the pressure on fewer available in-person polling sites on Election Day amid pandemic concerns that have closed traditional voting locations in many churches and nursing homes, election officials say.
Local election officials who have been scrambling to find alternative handicap-accessible sites that are large enough to allow for social distancing on Election Day are counting on more voters using advance ballots that can be mailed in, dropped in new ballot boxes, or taken to polling places.
Some Kansas counties are also opening more polling sites – and opening them sooner than usual – for in-person early voting this year.
Johnson County had 209 polling sites in the 2016 general election and expects to have around 170 polling locations this year.
Shawnee County is down to 94 polling places from the 100 it had in 2016.
Douglas County has 43 voting sites compared with 63 in the last presidential election.
Sedgwick County is an outlier because it plans to have 83 polling locations this year, compared with 64 in 2016.
For the general election, the Kansas secretary of state’s office in August ordered 180 ballot drop boxes for counties that wanted them.
Some counties had already bought ballot boxes.
Sedgwick County had ordered 14 ballot in May that it will use in addition to the two it gets from the state.
During the 2016 presidential election, Sedgwick County had no ballot drop boxes, said Sandy Gritz, the county’s chief deputy election commissioner.
Douglas County also purchased additional ballot drop boxes itself and will have 11 available for the general election, compared with only one in 2016.
During the August primary, 41% of Kansas voters statewide cast a mail-in ballot.
Election officials are anticipating that record numbers of mail ballots in the general election will further ease demand for in-person voting.