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Kansas Voter Registration Deadline Nears For Local Elections

Stephen Koranda
Kansas Public Radio
In 2015, Kansas lawmakers moved local elections from the spring to the fall of odd-numbered years. That means 2017 is the first year when voters will cast ballots in November for offices such as school board and city commission.

Kansans who need to update their voter registration before the fall local election will need to move fast. Tuesday is the deadline to register to vote before the November election.

This is the first year that local elections are being held in November instead of spring. In many communities, voters will decide races for city council, school board or ballot questions about issues including bonds and sales taxes.

A big motivation for the calendar change for local Kansas elections was to get people into the habit of voting every fall and improve turnout.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew, who sent a mailing to alert voters about the change, said requests for advance ballots are way up.

“We’ve been surprised by the response to it,” Shew said. “We actually have had over 4,000 people respond to it asking for an advance ballot, which is 10 times the number of advance ballots we’ve had for local elections.”

Shew said in the past, local elections would come quickly after federal elections, which may have led to voter fatigue. The change in date appears to be attracting people who normally may not be interested in local races.

“Over 50 percent of the people who requested a ballot have never voted in a local election,” he said.

Some confusion remains about voter registration rules, Shew said.

State law says new Kansas voters need to provide proof of citizenship. Because of a court order, people registering using the federal voter registration form are currently not held to that requirement. 

Shew offers both the federal and state forms in his office. He said voters using the federal form need to keep future uncertainty in mind.

“It’s something that I talk to voters about. Your status could change, depending upon what happens,” he said.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda.

As the Kansas News Service managing editor, I help our statewide team of reporters find the important issues and breaking news that impact people statewide. We refine our daily stories to illustrate the issues and events that affect the health, well-being and economic stability of the people of Kansas. Email me at skoranda@kcur.org.
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