Commissioner Howell Discusses Election Process

“Democracy in America” was the topic of the Oct 6, 2020, League of Women Voters Topeka-Shawnee County Tuesday Topics presentation by Shawnee County Election Commissioner Andrew Howell. Normally these public meetings are held at the library, however, with COVID-19 the meeting was held virtually. We’ve included the recorded presentation and provided highlights below. The library is a partner with the League of Women Voters Topeka-Shawnee County in sharing non-partisan civic information.

Election Commissioner Andrew Howell

Election Commissioner Andrew Howell

Andrew Howell, Shawnee County Election Commissioner shared the new 2020 Voting Options website his office created to help educate Shawnee County about the three different ways to vote in this November’s General Election.

Dropboxes are coming to Shawnee County

The election office recently announced locations for drop boxes for returning advance ballots in the community. At this time, the plan is that the two mobile drop boxes will be staffed by Election Office staff on mobile trailers and available on an advertised schedule at 10 locations around the county at certain times/locations/dates so that people can utilize the drop box and put their advance ballot in when it’s near them. Howell emphasized that the boxes can only be opened by one democrat and one republican together (both keys needed to open the boxes).

The Election Office works their mission: “Prompt. Honest. Accurate.”

This year, with the high uncertainty of how many people will vote by mail, it is extremely challenging to figure out where to put resources. As of October 6, the Shawnee County Election Office had already received more than 20,000 requests for mail ballots. Shawnee County has worked to have polling places that serve our community and minimize lines for voting on election day. Because of COVID-19, 200-300 poll workers haven’t returned this year and the Election Office is expecting to train a large number of new or relatively new poll workers and volunteers. The paper based system in Shawnee County is a provable system, with security in place, cameras, and machines that are never hooked up to the Internet. The Election Office has made some additional purchases for ballot tabulation devices.

Mail ballots must be postmarked by election day

One change people may not remember is that the law changed in 2017 and now allows for the mail ballots to count if they are postmarked on election day. The website of the election office will give you an update every day at 5pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday after the election to provide those mail ballot numbers finalized and uploaded for the public to view. The election day numbers may or may not capture the results of some close races.

Provisional ballots help registered voters get their vote counted

Provisional ballots will be addressed in the two weeks after the election. If the person wasn’t registered to vote, the law doesn’t allow their ballot to count. The law requires the election office to follow up with everyone who casts a provisional ballot to try to help them get their vote counted. At the canvas 13 days later, County Commissioners will make decisions on provisional ballots.

What are the rules about people watching at the polls?

The Kansas Secretary of State website provides information about poll agents. Reminder: No talking or signs related to the election within 250 feet of the polling place. That’s considered electioneering. As the Election Commissioner, Howell takes the stance of being an administrator of the current legislation around the election. He prefers sticking to what the law says, executing it perfectly and being helpful to the public. The Kansas Secretary of State addresses many questions about election law and procedures in their Frequently Asked Questions.

Voter View allows you to track the steps in your own voting process

This tracking through the Secretary of State’s website lets you make sure your application request for an advance ballot was received, that your advanced ballot is mailed, and that your voted ballot is received. If you are expecting a mail ballot and you don’t see it in Voter View, submit an application again. If you see in Voter View that they received your request for mail ballot and you don’t receive it within 4-5 days after the October 14 mail date, call the election office. Contact your county election office with any questions or concerns.

Lissa Staley

Lissa Staley helps people use the library. She is a Book Evangelist, Trivia Emcee, Classics Made Modern book discussion leader, NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, and frequent library customer. She loves her kids, being a librarian, living in Topeka, and helping people form connections and community. (She's the Community Connections Librarian!) She reads a new book every few days, but is enjoying the audiobook of "Empress of Forever" by Max Gladstone, the ebook "When We Were Magic" by Sarah Gailey and is eagerly awaiting John Scalzi's "The Last Emperox" in April!