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Johnson County Expects Near-Record Turnout For The 2020 Election

A voter at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage center casts her vote in the primary election in July.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
In July, a woman took advantage of Kansas' early voting at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center for the 2020 primary election.

The county also looks to be on pace to top a record it just set in August: the most requests for mail-in ballots.

Johnson County Election Commissioner Connie Schmidt is predicting very high voter turnout for the presidential election, with mail-in ballot applications likely to surpass the record just set in August.

With 40 days to go before the Nov. 3 election, the county has already received more than 100,000 applications for mail-in ballots, Schmidt told the commission Thursday. The county processed about 106,000 mail-in ballots in the August primary, which set a record for all county elections since Kansas began allowing no-excuse mailed ballots in 1996.

“There seems to be lot of activity in the general public about voting in this election so we are anticipating a high voter turnout, and I have to say that makes me very happy,” Schmidt said. “I want all the voters to come.”

Overall, Schmidt projects more than 340,000 people — 90% of the county’s active registered voters — may vote in this election, and she expects only about 136,000 people at the polls on Election Day.

Aside from the presidential race, Johnson County voters will decide a congressional race between Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids and Republican Amanda Adkins, as well as several Statehouse seats.

Schmidt acknowledged there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation about voting this year that her staff is trying to address. She said some voters in the county have received as many as five applications for mailed ballots from nonprofit voter participation agencies.

“The voters think that means they can get five ballots, but, rest assured, we only send one ballot to every voter,” she said.

Johnson County Commissioner Michael Ashcraft asked about concerns over possible “snafus” with mailed ballots.

Schmidt replied that Johnson County and the state of Kansas have nearly 25 years of experience with early voting, including no-excuse mailed ballots and advanced voting, so she expects few problems.

“We’re encouraging voters to consider using the early voting option this year because of COVID-19,” she said.

The main problem with mailed ballots, Schmidt said, is when people forget to sign their ballot envelopes or when spouses sign each other’s ballot envelopes. But the election office reaches out to voters to correct mistakes.

The total number of registered voters in Johnson County, both active and inactive, is nearly 440,000 — up from 348,000 in the 2004 presidential election.

There will be more than 2,000 Johnson County poll workers on Election Day, more than 1,700 of them new. Schmidt said the county has also identified some large buildings for new polling places to help with social distancing in the midst of the pandemic.

Key deadlines for Kansas voters include:

  • Oct. 13: The last day to register to vote.
  • Oct. 14: Mailed ballots start to go out to voters. They must be postmarked back to the election offices by Nov. 3 and must be received by the Friday after Election Day.
  • Oct. 17: Advance voting in person begins. Drop boxes for mail ballots are also expected to open Oct. 17 for people who don’t want to rely on the postal service. Locations and more information are at https://jocoelection.org/advance-voting-0.
  • Oct. 27: The last day to request a mailed ballot.
  • Nov. 3: Election Day, when polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Lynn Horsley is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @LynnHorsley.

Lynn Horsley is a freelance writer in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @LynnHorsley.
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