Drive-up election mailbox arrives for primary

Margaret Allen
Ron Schumacher, left, and Greg Erbert, both Ellis County maintenance technicians, installed a new drive-up election drop box Friday in the alley south of the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main.

Ellis County maintenance technicians Greg Erbert and Ron Schumacher on Friday put the finishing touches on a drive-up election mailbox for voters.

The mailbox in the alley just south of the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main, is a handy drop box for voters who don’t want to leave their car to do business at the Ellis County Clerk’s Office.

The county treasurer’s office has a drive-up drop box in the same alley but farther east.

County clerk employees will empty the locking mailbox regularly. This is the first drop box the county has ever had for returning election materials, as far as county clerk Donna Maskus is aware.

“They’ll put ballots in there, and voter registration cards,” Maskus said Friday as she pulled the handle to open the box for the first time. “Any time of day.”

So far, the county clerk’s office has received 2,060 requests for mail-in ballots for the approaching Aug. 4 primary. People choosing a mail-in ballot don’t have to go to the polls on Election Day.

In the primary, registered Republicans and Democrats vote for the candidates in their party that they want to send on to the general election in November.

There are more than 18,000 registered voters in Ellis County. Voters can request a mail-in ballot up to a week before the Aug. 4 primary.

Ellis County will be reimbursed the cost of the mailbox from CARES Act COVID-19 money. The federal government is covering extraordinary election expenses created by the pandemic.

Other costs being reimbursed include sanitation supplies, which Maskus will have delivered to each of the nine polling locations across the county for use on Election Day.

County clerk’s office employee Ruth Mermis on Friday was sorting the supplies into individual carrying bags. They include hand sanitizer, cloth cleaning wipes and sanitizing cleaner, as well as face masks and protective gloves for poll workers.

It isn’t yet known whether poll workers will be required to wear masks, Maskus said.

“They can, that is supplied,” she said. “The question was asked the other day, is it mandated? Well it depends on what each county’s direction is from their health administrator. So I’ve been communicating with Jason Kennedy, our health director, so we’ll do whatever he recommends closer to election.”

Mermis was also preparing the polling location signs the government supplied that encourage people to use hand sanitizer after they vote.

To further reduce exposure and spread of the virus while voting, the Kansas Secretary of State Office is supplying each county with enough special stylus tools for each individual voter to mark their ballot, Maskus said.

Those are set to arrive before the end of the month.

“We’re all anxious to see what that looks like,” she said.

At the polling location, each voter will be issued their own personal stylus. They’ll use it to sign in on a poll pad, then be issued their paper ballot to mark.

Once used, each voter can take their stylus home.

The books for registering to vote close July 14 for the primary, Maskus said. Her office mails out paper ballots as soon after that as possible.

On Friday, Erbert and Schumacher used a jack to roll the drive-up mailbox into position, centering it over four bolt holes they’d drilled in the concrete. After that, it was just a matter of placing some small blocks of wood under the feet to level it, then tightening the bolts.

“That thing ain’t going nowhere,” said Erbert, giving the metal box a tap as the final bolts were tightened.

“It’s just like a drive-up at Wendy’s,” he said. “You can’t get too close.”

Ruth Mermis, an employee in the Ellis County Clerk's Office, sorts sanitizing supplies and prepares safety posters for delivery to each of the county's nine voting locations before primary day Aug. 4.