Mail-in ballot requests spike in Riley County, other Kansas counties

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Party at the Polls was hosted on Nov. 6, 2018 in the KSU Foundation building. Hosted by the K-State Student Governing Association, it was open to the public and encouraged students to vote at the nearby voting location inside the Manhattan Fire Station. (File Photo by Alex Todd | Collegian Media Group)

This election year, an influx of mail-in ballots is expected as many Kansas counties saw an increase in requests caused pandemic concerns.

Election Day is approaching and the voter registration deadline for Kansas has passed. Early voting has begun. Until Nov. 3, registered Kansas voters can vote in person or by mail.

Rich Vargo, Riley County clerk, said 9,810 ballots have been mailed out for this election so far.

“In the 2016 general election we mailed 1,764 ballots,” Vargo said.

Other counties, where many Kansas State students reside, also saw a spike in mail-in ballot requests.

Jamie Shew, Douglas County clerk, said there really is no comparison when it comes to the numbers this year.

“In 2016, we mailed 7,948, and we received 7,330 back,” Shew said. “Yesterday we mailed 29,200, and I think we’re getting ready to mail another 1,000, so we’ll be over 30,000.”

Shew said the most the Douglas County Clerk’s office ever mailed before the pandemic was 13,000 in 2018 and 19,000 in the primary election.

Nancy McCarter, Pottawatomie County clerk and election official, said mail-in ballots are not new in her county.

“[Mail-in ballots] have increased over the 23 years that I’ve worked in this office,” McCarter said in an email. “In 2016, I mailed 1,207 ballots and had 1,259 walk-ins. As of today, 2020, I have mailed 3,727 and [had] 88 walk-in voters.”

The Johnson County Election Office issued 190,939 advance ballots in 2016 with 180,657 returned. For 2020, the election office has mailed out over 150,000 ballots just on Oct. 14.

Even if ballots are mailed in and postmarked on Election Day or before, they must be received by Friday, Nov. 6, in order to count. Riley County will also accept ballots via fax to the Election Office at 785-537-6394 or by email at voterinfo@rileycountyks.gov.

Voters can track their ballot’s status after mailing it in or dropping it off on the Voter View website.

For in-person voting, in order to be counted, completed ballots must be delivered to the Election Office or to any polling place in Riley County by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.

For more information on the voting process, visit the advance voting page on the county website.

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Sean Schaper
My name is Sean Schaper, and I'm the assistant news editor for the Collegian. I’m a junior in journalism with a secondary focus in film studies. I grew up right outside of Kansas City in Leawood, Kansas. As a first-generation K-Stater, I look forward to leaving behind accurate coverage for the current and future Wildcat community.