Many Cowley County voters have already cast ballots through the mail, but for those who do show up at the polls Tuesday, things will be a little different to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
For starters, there will be sneeze guards at each check-in location. Each voter will be given their own pen or stylus to use and take with them. And, according to County Clerk Karen Madison, workers will sanitize the check-in area and voting booths after each person moves through. Ballot privacy sleeves will not be reused on Election Day, she added.
“There will be lots of cleaning and hand sanitizer around to be used,” Madison said.
As far as masks go, poll workers in Winfield will wear them because of a city ordinance that requires it, she said. Workers in other locations are strongly encouraged to use face-coverings, but there is no mandate. Voters will be required to wear a mask, she emphasized.
“No voter will be turned away in any location for not wearing a mask,” Madison said. “Every person can vote in any location they are assigned to, mask or no mask.”
The clerk’s office already had received about 2,300 ballots in the mail by Friday, a huge increase from the 466 total received in 2016, the last time a primary was held during a presidential election year.
Many more could come in, because Madison’s office mailed out 3,543 advanced ballots to voters who requested them, after she decided to mail every registered voter advanced ballot applications due to pandemic concerns about in-person voting.
About 15 poll workers have opted out of working the election, she said. Two canceled Friday morning. At least three workers are required at each polling station, she said, and Madison thinks she can make necessary adjustments.
Wait times might be longer, and she asks that voters exercise patience with the poll workers.
“It might be a slower process, but will still be able to happen for everyone who wants to vote,” Madison said.
A total of 5,471 ballots were cast for a 28 percent turnout in 2016.
So far this year, 450 people had voted early at the clerk’s office in Winfield and 86 at the Water Treatment Plant in Arkansas City. Including the mailed ballots already received, that’s about 2,830 votes already cast, more than half the 2016 total.
Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab predicted a 28-percent turnout statewide. That is based on several factors, including past election history, advanced voting figures and competitive elections that drive turnout, according to a press release.
As of Friday, there had been 314,788 advance mail ballots sent to Kansas voters, a huge increase from the 53,387 sent during the same period in the 2016 primary election.
To date, 159,012 advance mail ballots had been returned to local election offices, compared to 26,795 in the 2016 primary election, according to the release.
Party affiliation of the returned mail ballots were 81,208 Democrats, 77,372 Republicans, nine Libertarian and 423 unaffiliated.
“Despite the ongoing pandemic, we are pleased with the number of Kansas voters who have exercised their right to vote through advance by mail ballots and advance in-person voting,” Schwab said. “We encourage those who have not voted to do so on Tuesday, Aug. 4.”
Kansas voters have until noon on Monday to advance vote in person. As of Friday, 30,762 such ballots had been cast. Of those, 23,599 were Republicans, 6,455 Democrats, three Libertarians and 745 unaffiliated. For the 2016 primary election, 28,452 advance in-person ballots were cast.
Due to the pandemic, voters should expect increased distance between voting booths, greater distance in interactions with election workers and frequent sanitizing of election equipment, the release states.
State law requires Kansas voters to show photo ID when casting a vote in person, but an executive order currently in place allows voters to use driver’s licenses or identification cards that have expired between March 12, 2020 and Sept. 15, 2020, in both the 2020 primary and general election.