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On January 1, 2017, the KHI News Service became part of KCUR public radio’s new initiative, the Kansas News Service. The Kansas News Service will continue to cover health policy news and broaden its scope to include education and politics. All stories produced by the former KHI News Service are archived here. Stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to KHI.org.

Six things to know if you want to vote in Kansas primaries

By Stephen Koranda, Amy Jeffries | July 12, 2016

Six things to know if you want to vote in Kansas primaries
Photo by Stephen Koranda/Kansas Public Radio

#KS2016

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’s time to start voting, Kansas.

From the top of the primary ballot to the bottom, there are important decisions to make by Aug. 2.

At the very top: U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, 3rd District Rep. Kevin Yoder and 1st District Rep. Tim Huelskamp are all facing primary opponents. Campaigning in the 1st District has been particularly contentious — of the mud-slinging variety — and with no Democrat in the ring, the primary will be terminal.

At the very bottom: You get to pick from or write-in candidates for precinct committeeman and committeewoman. There are a lot of vacancies in these offices that make up the party grassroots.

The primaries that could matter most are the contests in 18 state Senate districts and 47 state House districts. In many districts, the climate is not friendly for candidates tied to Gov. Sam Brownback.

Fifteen state House races will be decided Aug. 2, with the victor facing no opposition in the general election. That, plus all the open seats and challenges to incumbents, means the makeup of the Legislature could be quite different as soon as the primaries are over.

1. Not registered? You have to hurry.

If you still need to register to vote in Kansas or update your registration, you’re almost out of time. The deadline for the Aug. 2 primaries is Tuesday, July 12.

You can mail in an application (so long as it’s postmarked by July 12) or register online, but with such a short timeframe, some officials are recommending you go to your county election office to register in person.

2. Have your proof of citizenship handy.

If you’re just updating your registration online — changing your name or your address — all you need is your driver’s license or nondriver ID card number. You can use your Social Security number, if you have one, to apply for an update with the paper form. 

But if this is your first rodeo as a voter in Kansas, you’ll need to show proof of citizenship with your birth certificate, passport or another document.

Here’s a full list of the documents that will work.

3. Registration suspended? You can fix it.

Thousands of registrations were put in limbo when the proof-of-citizenship rules came into play in Kansas.

If you are one of those thousands, because, for example, you registered at the Division of Motor Vehicles when you got your driver’s license, you still have time to fix it.

First, check with your county election office to determine the status of your registration.

You then have up until the day before the Aug. 2 election to turn in missing documents to your county election office. You can submit documents in person, by mail or electronically — ask if your election office will accept documents by text or email.

If you registered at the DMV, even if you haven’t provided a citizenship document, you can vote, but only in federal races (the only federal races on the ballot Aug. 2 are the elections for U.S. Senate and U.S. House).

4. It’s too late to switch parties.

It may be tempting, especially if one party or another dominates your district, to switch parties so you can have a say about who is the ultimate winner. In places like Hutchinson, some candidates have even deliberately courted party-switchers.

But, sorry, Kansas law says you can’t switch after June 1.  

However, if you’re unaffiliated, you can still choose a political party all the way up to, and including, Election Day. And the Secretary of State’s Office says if you’re registering for the first time in Kansas you are allowed to choose a party when you submit your application.

5. Go ahead and vote early.

If you’ve already got your registration figured out, you can request an advance ballot for the primaries through your county election office up until July 29. They’re due back by 7 p.m. Aug. 2 when polls close.

Counties have flexibility on in-person early voting, so dates vary by location, but it begins as soon as July 13. Contact your county election office to find out when you can vote in-person.

6. Bring your photo ID.

Remember, in Kansas, you can’t cast your vote in person or request a mail-in ballot without it.

— Stephen Koranda is the Statehouse bureau chief for Kansas Public Radio. Amy Jeffries is the Kansas elections editor at KCUR.