This story is part of a 2016 Kansas elections collaboration involving the KHI News Service, KCUR, KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and High Plains Public Radio.
It would be hard not to know there’s a presidential election going on. There’s plenty of action at the state level, too.
Already, with the results of the August primaries, the Legislature has seen lots of turnover. And there are at least 10 Kansas Senate races and 20 House races that are competitive in the general election.
If you’ve heard anyone say “finish the ballot,” it probably was a Democrat encouraging you to vote all the way down through county commission, school board, and precinct captain, to also make a choice for judicial retention. House GOP leaders have been leading the charge against four Supreme Court justices they’d like to see ousted because of rulings on school finance, abortion restrictions and death sentences.
Of course before you vote on anything in the Nov. 8 election, you must be registered. Here are a few tips to make sure you can cast a ballot.
1. Are you registered?
If you’re not sure, check your status by searching the Secretary of State’s database. If you are registered, your name, address, party and information about your precinct and polling place will pop up. If your registration is incomplete in any way, you’ll get a “no records found” message.
If you want to be extra sure, call your county election office.
2. It’s now the last minute.
The deadline to register to vote in Kansas is Tuesday, Oct. 18.
3. The federal form is your best bet for registering.
The Kansas form requires you to provide documentary proof of citizenship, like a passport or birth certificate. But the federal form only requires that you swear you’re a citizen under penalty of perjury.
Under a federal court order issued in September, Kansas has to accept federal form registrations without more proof of citizenship.
The fastest, surest way to register last minute is to fill out that federal form and bring it to your county election office.
4. If you registered at the Department of Motor Vehicles, you can vote on everything.
So you went to get your driver’s license and signed up to vote while you were at it. You were registered with the federal form, you don’t have to submit further proof of citizenship and you can vote.
There was a lot of confusion about this during the summer leading up to the primaries. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had thousands of “motor-voters” suspended and only wanted them to be allowed to vote in federal contests with provisional ballots.
But Kobach has since signed an agreement with the ACLU so all voters registered at the DMV or otherwise with the federal form can vote in all elections this November using a standard ballot.
5. If you used the state form, make sure you submitted proof of citizenship.
Kansas is still requiring proof of citizenship documents for voters registered with the state form.
Kobach’s office says if your proof is missing, you should have received a notice saying your registration is suspended until you submit it. If your registration is suspended, you’ll get a provisional ballot and your vote won’t count unless you provide a citizenship document to your county election office or the Secretary of State’s Office before the election.
The Douglas County Election Office says you have until midnight on the eve of Election Day to provide that proof of citizenship.
If it has been 90 days since you submitted your Kansas voter registration application and you haven’t provided a citizenship document, your application will be canceled and you have to reapply.
Again, the best way to determine your status is to call your county election office.
6. Skip the line — vote in advance.
There could be a wait at the polls on Nov. 8.
Some counties already are fretting about not having enough poll workers, meaning not enough people to check-in voters and distribute ballots.
It’s hard to say what turnout will be like, especially given the historic unfavorability ratings of the presidential candidates. But for the last presidential election in 2012, more than 811,000 voters turned out on Election Day in Kansas. That year, almost 372,000 voted early. And you can too.
You can go vote in person as early as Oct. 19 (it’s up to each county election office to say exactly when and where, so check with yours) and as late as noon Nov. 7.
Or you can stay home and vote in your pajamas if you request an advance mail-in ballot by Nov. 4; those start going out to voters Oct. 19. You have to mail it or take it to your county election office by the time the polls close on Election Day.
7. Registered? Expect a standard ballot.
Kansas election officials can distribute provisional ballots to voters whose registration is in question. Those ballots are later reviewed by the local board of canvassers to determine whether they should count. But if you have successfully registered — signed a federal form, registered at the DMV or filled out the state form and submitted citizenship documents — you should get a standard ballot.
8. One polling place per person on Election Day.
The address where you can cast your ballot on Nov. 8 is on your voter registration card. Don’t know where your registration card is? Look up your polling place.
You may have a different polling place from the person who lives across the street from you. The way polling places are assigned is funny like that; there are multiple polling places for each Legislative district.
Editor’s note: The information in No. 6 about requesting an advance mail-in ballot was updated at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 18.