The metal container installed this week in downtown Arkansas City and the one outside the county clerk’s office in Winfield look like a cross between a mailbox and a trash container. But don’t put letters or leftovers inside.
The metal boxes explicitly say “Ballot Drop Cowley County,” and are one option for people who asked for mail in ballots to cast their vote.
The boxes are part of election efforts this year to limit exposure to the coronavirus when people vote. The state of Kansas offered two ballot boxes to each county.
Many more people are expected to vote by mail in the Nov. 3 general election than ever before — more than 4,000 Cowley County voters have requested mail ballots — and the drop boxes are one way to help voters to accomplish that.
The boxes are at the clerk’s office, 321 E. 10th Ave. in Winfield, and at the county attorney’s office, 119 S. Summit St., in Ark City.
County Clerk Karen Madison said Thursday that strict procedures for handling of those ballots are in place.
Two board workers, one Republican and one Democrat, will work together to retrieve the ballots each day. She said the workers will visit her office each day to obtain the two keys required to open the boxes.
“They have a log, they’ll count the ballots, then they come to Winfield and check our box and then we count them again to make sure everything matches,” Madison said.
The same two workers will pick up the ballots in both communities each day.
Madison said that voters have until 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 to deposit their ballots. After that time, both boxes will be locked to prevent additional deposits.
“There is a little kiosk-close thing that locks so you can’t put anything inside of it,” she said. “They will be down there (in Ark City) at 7 p.m. to lock it and we’ll lock this one at 7 p.m.”
Madison said the ballots were mailed out Wednesday, so the first pick up will take place Friday. In addition to mailing ballots through the U.S. Postal Service, voters also can drop off them off in person once advance voting begins.
“They can do that in Winfield, or at the water treatment plant in Ark City,” she said. “They can walk them in.”
In-person, advanced voting starts Monday at the clerk’s office in Winfield. Voting will take place for two weeks from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. until noon on Oct. 31, and 7:30 a.m. until noon on Nov. 2.
In Ark City, in-person advanced voting will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 26-27, and from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 30 at the water treatment plant at 400 W. Madison Ave.
Madison said voters could also drop their ballots off at polling locations on Election Day.
“There’s multiple ways for them to return their ballots,” she said.