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When will election results in Kansas be known? Here’s what to expect on Nov. 3:

Andrew Bahl
abahl@gannett.com
Shawnee County residents fill out their ballots Friday morning at the election office, 3420 S.W. Van Buren.

As 2020’s unprecedented election cycle draws to a close, many Kansans are wondering a similar question: When will we know who won?

There has been a great deal of turbulence nationally over that question, with the potential for results in multiple swing states to take longer than usual to count.

The answer in Kansas will not technically be official until counties formally canvass the results, something which happens in the weeks following the election. The results are then certified by the state.

But Secretary of State Scott Schwab expressed confidence that observers will know where things stand in key races, including the presidential, U.S. Senate and U.S. House contests, on Tuesday night.

“I don’t think its going to slow things down where it is going to take a week,” Schwab said last week. “I just don’t think that is going to take that long in Kansas.”

Still Schwab and the Secretary of State’s office has urged voters to be patient waiting for results.

Officials in Sedgwick County, the state’s second-largest county, similarly predicted that results would be known by 10:30 or 11 p.m.

“We’re not anticipating anything to be different,” said deputy election commissioner Melissa Schnieders.

That makes Kansas different than a number of swing states, most notably Pennsylvania, where a deluge of mail ballots and the state’s election laws could result in ballot counting lasting for days.

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania declined to change the state’s election code to allow counties to handle and count mail ballots ahead of time, a process known as pre-canvassing.

Kansas, on the other hand, allows counties to pre-canvass advance ballots. Those ballots can be scanned ahead of time and the data stored, but the votes themselves won’t be tabulated until election night.

They will also match the signature on the ballots to those provided on a voter’s registration form to determine the ballot’s authenticity.

That means that advance ballots will actually be among the first ones posted, likely shortly after the polls close on election night at 7 p.m. local time.

“Ironically, at a time when nationally people are concerned about counting votes, in Kansas we may have more votes counted earlier than ever before,” said Bob Beatty, chair of Washburn University’s political science department.

Results in state legislative and local races could take longer to finalize, depending on how tight they are.

Even the U.S. Senate race between GOP Congressman Roger Marshall and Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier could go down to the wire, making a final result potentially tough to gauge Tuesday evening.

If that happens then observers will simply have to wait. Mail ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 can be received by counties as late as Nov. 6 and still count.

And those county canvasses? Those could be even more important this year.

Voters who request an advanced mail ballot but elect to vote in-person will be given a separate, provisional ballot that is then set aside. That ballot will only be tabulated once it is determined that a person did not also vote by mail.

When counties meet to canvas the results they will determine which provisional ballots to count. It is not uncommon for races, especially at the statehouse level, to hinge on those decisions.

But Beatty said Kansans were used to the process – even when that means having to play a waiting game.

He pointed to the 2018 gubernatorial primary between then-Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Gov. Jeff Colyer, which was settled by a mere 361 votes.

“Kansans are not as anxious because Kansans have been through it,” Beatty said.

Results in Thursday's edition

The Topeka Capital-Journal won’t report election results in Wednesday's edition; counting ballots is expected to extend past press time for many races. Go to CJOnline for up-to-the minute results and look for comprehensive coverage in Thursday's Capital-Journal.