TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly advised county election officials Monday to rely on federal pandemic-response funding to buy additional advance-voting drop boxes to avoid potential snags moving November general election ballots through the U.S. mail.
She praised Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab for effectively overseeing the August primary’s heavy volume of advance ballots and for authorizing two additional ballot drop boxes in all 105 counties.
The Kelly administration will send correspondence to county commissions and administrators affirming CARES Act funding tied to the pandemic could be used to acquire the additional drop boxes.
“Adding more ballot drop boxes will not only lessen the public health risks that will come from gathering in long lines at polling places, but by sending fewer ballots through the mail will also lessen the burden on the United States Postal Service,” Kelly said.
Kelly, a Democrat, said she wasn’t concerned about potential litigation inspired by her work to ease the burden of advance voting. President Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election, has said opportunities for fraud exist with mail-in balloting. On Aug. 17, Trump said “the only way we’re going to lose this election is if this election is rigged.”
In the August primary, a record 636,000 Kansans cast ballots — 150,000 more than the previous high. There were 261,000 mail-in ballots and 50,000 advance ballots delivered in person.
During the statehouse briefing Monday, Kelly said the number of Kansas deaths related to COVID-19 had risen since Friday by three to 446. The number of hospitalizations for the virus in Kansas surpassed 2,300. The state added 1,564 positive tests for a new statewide total of 42,612.
She said it was regrettable some people were content to gloss over grim figures of the virus’ behavior. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Kansas exceeds the population of Stanton County. The fatality total for Kansas is greater than the population of numerous smaller cities in the state, she said.
“The entire city of Axtell would be gone. Over 40,000 Kansans infected is more than the entire population of the city of Hutchinson,” Kelly said. “We can’t ignore the scope of the damage we will face if the coronavirus continues to race through our communities.”