Voter turnout expected to near 80 percent

Election workers collect votes during the 2020 Primary held Aug. 4. The Covid-19 pandemic meant extra safety steps had to be taken for voters and poll workers.

By Blake Spurney

NEWTON—Harvey County voters have requested nearly 7,400 ballots via mail so far, which is nearly double the amount of any previous election.

County Clerk Rick Piepho said he had estimated that 4,000 voters would request ballots out of 23,500 voters. Before the voter registration deadlineTuesday, he said his office had been processing 50 applications per day. Now he’s thinking the county’s turnout will be pushing 80 percent, which would be about 10 percent higher than the number who voted in 2016.

“A hotly contested presidential race really drives the turnout,” he said.

Throw in COVID-19, and 2020 definitely will stick out, especially since the nation’s response to the pandemic is one of the key topics being debated.

Piepho said Kansas didn’t have some of the issues being discussed in other states regarding voter disinformation. He said state law required election offices to contact people with a signature deficiency. Voters are required to sign the outside of the envelope on mailed ballots. If the signature doesn’t match, a voter receives a letter, and the voter has until the election canvass to get the deficiency resolved.

Piepho said mailed ballots would count as long as they were postmarked by 7 p.m. Nov. 3 and received by the next Friday. He said Kansas would have a bunch of ballots being thrown out, which is something being discussed in Pennsylvania and Michigan. He said some ballots were thrown out in every election. During the August primary, his office counted 40 signature deficiencies. All but five voters rectified the problem.

“They chose not to sign them for whatever reason,” he said.

Piepho said the record number of mailed ballots changed the workload for his office. He said it wasn’t more of a challenge but rather a different process for checking the ballots.

“It’s just a different workload for mail in ballots than there are for other ballots,” he said.

Piepho said presidential races always were a little more challenge. He also said he personally cared about the results, but he cared more about making sure that each vote was counted.

“As long as I’ve done my job properly, the results are going to be what they are,” he said.

Piepho said he didn’t keep up with who was winning on Election Night until the results became final. He also noted that results weren’t official until after the canvass.

The county has two drop boxes where people can drop off ballots. One is on the south side of the courthouse, and the other is at Fire Station No. 3 at 26th Street and South Kansas Avenue.