When you walk into a poll site on Election Day, casting a ballot is a relatively simple process. You display your photo ID, select a paper or electronic ballot, and cast your vote. However, according to Harvey County Clerk Joyce Truskett, the laws governing voting are anything but simple. Truskett gave a presentation during a Life Enrichment session Wednesday at Bethel College. She shared about basic voting laws and about recent changes to voting legislation. The foundation of Kansas voting law is the requirement for voter registration. “You can’t vote if you’re not registered,” Truskett said. In order to vote in Kansas you must be: - At least 18 years old. - A citizen of the United States. - A resident of the state of Kansas (although there is no length of residency requirement). You must register 21 days before an election. You will need to change your voter registration if you’ve had a change of name or address, or if you wish to change your party affiliation (a change in party affiliation must be made 21 days before an election for a partisan primary). Unaffiliated voters may request a Democratic ballot at the polls, but unaffiliated voters must affiliate with the Republican party to vote Republican in a primary.
Cast your vote
Truskett said there are many ways voters can cast their ballot. You can vote at a poll site on Election Day, or you can vote in advance at the Harvey County Courthouse, beginning Oct. 23 for the Nov. 6 election. You also can request a ballot by mail. The last day to request a mailed ballot is Nov. 2, but Truskett recommends submitting a request before then so you will have enough time to return it to her office by the 7 p.m. deadline on Election Day. Those who are disabled can seek “permanent advanced status” to have their ballots sent to them by mail every election. There are 13 poll sites in Harvey County. Paper ballots are counted by an electronic scanner, and a four-member county board counts ballots that will not scan or have write-in votes on them. If you chose a write-in option on a paper ballot, Truskett said to make sure you fill in the oval next to the write-in space, in addition to the name of the write-in candidate. This will ensure your vote is counted properly.
The Help America Vote Act
Truskett said the infamous “hanging chad” confusion during the 2000 presidential election has resulted in several reforms to voting laws. These include training for election officers and poll workers; improved poll sites that are more easily accessible to disabled voters (handicap parking spaces, ramps, etc.); elimination of confusing ballot and voting equipment designs; and provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are used for voters whose names or addresses are incorrect in the system, or voters who can’t be found in the system. Of the approximately 90 provisional ballots from the county’s recent primary election, about 80 were legally countable. You can call the county to verify your provisional ballot was counted. “This is a way to allow everybody to vote, no matter what,” Truskett said. “... Our intention is to count every one of them we can count.”
The Secure and Fair Elections Act
Another new law is the SAFE Act — or the “Secure and Fair Elections Act” — passed in Kansas in 2011. This law requires voters to present a photo ID every time they vote, and to verify their U.S. citizenship when registering to vote for the first time in Kansas. Although the law has generated some controversy, Truskett said it has now passed, and, right or wrong, voters are required to abide by it whether they agree with it or not. Election officials also are required to enforce that law. “The debate on the law ... that ship has sailed,” Truskett said. “... The law is the law, and we’re charged with upholding that law.” A driver’s license is the most common form of photo ID presented at poll sites, but Truskett said U.S. passports, military IDs, concealed carry licenses and student IDs from an accredited post-secondary institution in Kansas also qualify. If you don’t have a photo ID, you can apply for a free one through the Division of Motor Vehicles. Truskett said while there is very little voter fraud in Harvey County, she does remember a few instances of illegal voting. One example is double voting, where a person voted in two counties. “It’s very sobering, because that, above anything, is what you do not want to happen,” she said. County election officials work hard to make voting as fair and easy as possible, she said. For more information about voting in Harvey County, contact the election office at 284-6842. Bethel College’s Life Enrichment educational series is targeted to adults age 60 and older. The sessions are on Wednesdays at Krehbiel Auditorium in the Bethel College Fine Arts Center. Cost for the program is $20 per semester or $2 per week. For more information, call 283-2500.