Four Kansas organizations filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging constitutionality of two sweeping election reform bills placed into law by the 2021 Legislature after deflecting vetoes by Gov. Laura Kelly. Here, voters cast ballots at United Methodist Church in Topeka. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Citing economic, social and health crises, some Kansas voters on Tuesday emphasized the importance of voting and expressing their views through civic action in this record-breaking election.
Early estimates from the Kansas Secretary of State’s office indicated more than 1,350,000 people will vote this year. That would be an increase of more than 100,000 from any previous election. The office also reported a similar increase in the number of registered voters.
In the advanced voting period, over 813,00 Kansans cast their ballot. This includes 442,005 by mail, a return rate of nearly 87%.
Rafael Marin, a Topeka resident, said the turnout shows Kansans understand the importance of this election.
“I try to express this to younger kids and people in my generation that you can sit at home and say what you want, but it’s not going to make a difference,” said Marin, who is 29. “You need to get out and vote. Get a sticker and show me you voted. That is what makes the difference.”
Despite the unprecedented turnout and changes made to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety precautions, by Tuesday afternoon polling locations across the state had not reported any systematic issues or delays they had not been able to remedy.
Marin, who was among those who cast their ballots on Election Day, said the process was quick, and safety precautions were up to par at the Topeka First United Methodist Church, a polling location near downtown.
“Everything was very clean. They were very formal, organized and professional,” Marin said. “They kept you moving at a smooth pace.”
Gregory Fox, another voter at the same location, called the process “beautiful” and said it took him only five minutes to get in and out.
In other areas of the state, however, Kansas voters are running into issues with by-mail ballots and voter registration. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, which operates a hotline, they have fielded more than 100 calls from voters who requested mail ballots in advance of the deadline but have not received them yet.
They have also fielded several calls about voters not showing up in the system.
Katie Koupal, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Secretary of State’s office, said while there have been a few isolated incidents, voters were reporting positive experiences at locations across Kansas.
“Things are going very well. We have experienced no systematic issues in the state of Kansas,” Koupal said. “Lines are moving consistently, and voters are turning out very impressive numbers, so right now we are very pleased with how things are going.”
Koupal did note the Secretary of State’s office had received reports of robocalls telling voters to stay home.
While she was unable to provide a specific number of people targeted, Koupal said it was a nationwide issue affecting a “handful” of Kansans.
“Our understanding is it is part of a nationwide robocalls team targeting several hundred area codes,” Koupal said. “Again, we have experienced no systematic or widespread issues in the state of Kansas, but given the nature of these calls, we wanted to make sure that voters were aware.”
Koupal said the office was in communication with federal and state agencies to ensure voters are protected. No delays are expected as a result of the robocalls.
Definitive results may be delayed, however, due to a record number of provisional ballots. State election director Brian Caskey said they were expecting more provisional ballots to be cast this year than in any prior election.
Provisional ballots are certified and counted during the county canvas, which begins a week after Election Day. In an average year, anywhere from 55% to 65% of these ballots end up counting toward results, Caskey said.
“We should see tens of thousands of provisional ballots scattered across the state of Kansas included in the official count next week,” Caskey said. “Just keep that in mind as we see results tonight that we won’t have many by-mail votes and provisional ballots that will be included in the official count.”
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