The administration of Gov. Laura Kelly reached agreement with a coalition of advocacy groups to bring state agencies into compliance with federal law requiring people on public assistance receive voter registration information. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — The Kansas Secretary of State’s office on Monday dismissed growing concerns ahead of Election Day that voter intimidation or suppression tactics will impact results.
Amid a pandemic and unprecedented turnout, local election officials’ ability to accurately and reliably conduct an election has been called into question by concerned voters. The shift in U.S. Postal Service leadership has further elevated these concerns.
Clay Barker, deputy general counsel for the Secretary of State’s office, shared Tuesday how voters should respond if they feel their vote is being suppressed in some manner.
“Talk to the polling place workers first since they may not be aware of what is going on,” Barker said. “If the polling place workers cannot handle it, they are supposed to call law enforcement. They know where the polling places are, and they can get there with anything that requires law enforcement presence.”
Kansas election officials and experts said voters should exercise patience in these instances and that poll workers and election officials are prepared to deal with potential issues should they arise.
Barker noted the Kansas statute forbidding electioneering within 250 feet of a polling location. The buffer zone law was recently upheld by the U.S. District Court of Kansas, despite claims the law was being used to stamp out free speech.
Electioneering occurs when someone knowingly attempts to persuade or influence eligible voters about a candidate or party. Examples of electioneering range from yard signs for a candidate to stickers and buttons to clothing with a candidate’s name on it.
“Occasionally, someone will come in with a T-shirt or a hat, and they’ll just be asked to turn the shirt inside out or take off the hat and put it away,” Barker said.
Katie Koupal, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office, said elections officials are prepared to handle these issues even if turnout exceeds expectations.
As of 8 a.m. Monday, Kansans had cast 770,324 advance ballots. Expectations are that 1.35 million people will vote in this year’s general election, an increase of more than 100,000 from any previous election.
Additionally, 86,083 mailed ballots have not yet been received, so more advance ballots could roll in by the deadline. Mail-in ballots will be accepted as long as they are postmarked by Election Day and received by Friday.
With the possibility of such a large turnout, Koupal is advising voters to remain patient when results come in.
Koupal said races with major write-in efforts would take even longer to count.
“We encourage voters to have patience tomorrow with voting and more waiting on results,” Koupal said. “A friendly reminder to everyone that election results you see tomorrow night are unofficial because they must be certified by state and local canvassing boards.”
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