No. 9 envelopes flying off the press Monday afternoon at Northwestern Printers Inc. will show up in mailboxes later this week to help people in Ellis County vote in coming elections but still avoid the polls.
The envelopes are part of a mailing from Ellis County Clerk Donna Maskus, explaining how voters can request advance ballots for both the Aug. 4 primary and the Nov. 3 general elections.
Besides two return envelopes, the mailing will include a letter explaining how to advance vote and two advance ballot request forms to fill out and return to the County Clerk’s office.
“I very much encourage people to consider the mail ballot election,” said Maskus, who reported on election progress Thursday to the Ellis County Commissioners during an open annual budget meeting.
More than 15,000 active voters will get the mailing, Maskus said.
Cost of the mailing may be reimbursed from more than $27,877 in federal funds allocated to Ellis County by the Kansas Secretary of State to cover extraordinary election expenses resulting from the coronavirus.
“Do you expect a lot of absentee ballots through this process because of COVID-19?” said County Commissioner Dustin Roths to Maskus during the budget meeting.
“Yes,” Maskus said. “And other election officials are seeing that. It’s just amazing. We’re talking 50% to 60% of the qualified voters are requesting a ballot to be mailed.”
“That’s probably what we would suggest to people who are maybe worried about coming to the polling site, to request their advance ballot,” Roths said during the meeting at the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main. “As always, we’re open here.”
Ellis County just held a mail-in ballot election in April on the question of a countywide sales tax. Maskus reported a high response rate for that election.
Some people hesitate though, she said.
“People are concerned, they say ‘You know how I vote,’” said Maskus. “But no, the secrecy of every voter’s vote is important to my staff and myself. So we have a strict system in tabulating the count.”
There are many federal, state and county offices up for election in August and November, including U.S. President.
“This year is a very big election,” Maskus said, “because presidential brings everybody out.”
The virus is adding extraordinary complications, including election expenses such as additional voting equipment, cleaning supplies, training poll workers on cleaning, and at least one drop box for people to drop off their ballots and voter registration cards at the Ellis County Administrative Center.
“We are carefully looking at that and analyzing what the needs are in Ellis County,” Maskus said.
She also will need some new poll workers at the nine polling sites throughout the county.
“We did just send out a letter to our election poll workers, and it’s been very interesting,” Maskus told the commissioners. “A lot of them have decided not to work elections again. I have to say a big thanks to anybody that has worked on Ellis County elections. We’ve had a great crew. Very capable people that have taken it very seriously.”
Usually it takes around 60 volunteers for an election, she said, but with COVID-19, Maskus estimates she’ll need at least 70 now, in part to add a person at each polling site to keep it wiped down.
“We very much want to protect our poll workers, and voters, and my staff,” Maskus said.
Looking over the two different application forms Monday afternoon, Northwestern Printers owner Josh Zweifel showed how each form has some yellow highlighted areas so voters know exactly what to fill out and return.
When ballots are received at the county in August and November, the Clerk’s Office staff will compare voter signatures to verify the ballot cast is authentic.
“This year the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office assures us that we will have a webinar before, that will give us some more education on looking at these signatures,” Maskus said. “There are two or three look at that signature before we reject it, and then we make every attempt to notify that voter to re-sign a document that we can look at and verify, and hopefully count the ballot.”
The letter also notes the website where people can see if the Clerk’s Office has received their advance ballot request, if and when their ballot was mailed, and when the ballot is received back to the County Clerk.
Anyone who wishes to run for office should go to Ellisco.net, Maskus said, noting that deadlines to file are approaching.
Maskus said voters can register, as well as check their registration status and verify that their address and party affiliation are correct, at myvoteinfo.voteks.org/voterview.
Anyone changing party affiliation to vote in the Aug. 4 primary must do so before noon June 1.
Otherwise, register to vote by July 14 to vote in the primary.
Call the Ellis County Clerk’s Office for more information, 785-628-9410.