Casting votes in Aug. 4 primary elections is as easy as dropping an envelope in the mail box.
With Advance Voting, started two years ago in Kansas, any registered voter can participate in the electoral process by mail before election Tuesday.
``It's just so convenient,'' said Chuck Knapp, special deputy assistant to the Kansas secretary of state.
Here's how it works: Contact the county election officer (Douglas County Clerk Patty Jaimes) to request an application for an advance voting ballot. Ballots can be mailed by the county to voters starting July 15, which is 20 days before the election. The last day to request a mail ballot is July 31.
Completed ballots need to be returned to the office of the county election officer -- it's got to make it before polls close election night.
If you don't want to mess with the U.S. Postal Service, registered voters can cast early ballots in person at the office of the county's election administrator (Jaimes is in the Douglas County Courthouse, 11th and Mass.). In-person advance voting is permitted July 15 until noon Aug. 3.
Questions related to voting in 1998:
1. Who can I contact with questions about the elections or voting?
The Kansas secretary of state's office and the Douglas County clerk's office are the best sources of information. The state's toll-free hotline is (800) 262-VOTE (8683). Douglas County Clerk Patty Jaimes can be reached at 832-5267.
2. What are important dates regarding the 1998 elections?
- Advance voting begins July 15 for the primary election.
- Last day to register or change party affiliation for the primary is July 20.
- Deadline is July 31 for voters to apply for advance voting ballots to be mailed for the primary.
- Deadline to cast advance ballots in person at the county clerk's office is noon Aug. 3.
- The primary election is Aug. 4. Mailed advance ballots must be received in the clerk's office by close of polls.
- Advance voting begins Oct. 14 for the general election.
- Last day to register to vote in general election is Oct. 19.
- Deadline is Oct. 30 for voters to apply for an advance voting ballot by mail.
- Deadline to cast advance voting ballots in person at the courthouse is noon Nov. 2.
- The general election is Nov. 3. Advance voting ballots must be at the courthouse when polls close.
3. Who is allowed to vote?
Eligible voters need to be at least 18 years of age, a U.S. citizen and a Kansas resident.
4. What about registration?
No one can vote without registering. It can be done at the county courthouse and at 16 locations in the county. Registration can occur when applying or renewing a Kansas driver's license. Civic groups conduct registration drives door-to-door or in public places. People can register by mail. Registration is closed 14 days before any election and re-opens the day after the election.
5. And re-registration?
People who have changed their residence or altered their name should complete a new registration form. It takes less than one minute to fill it out.
6. What about designating a party affiliation?
Individuals may pick a party affiliation when registering to vote. A person can wait to sign a declaration -- Republican or Democrat -- until at their voting place the day of a primary election. This declaration can be reversed after a primary. Folks may choose not to affiliate with any political party and skip the primary.
7. Is there a primary election for third party candidates?
Independents and other party candidates, such as the Libertarian or Reform political parties, do not run in the primary. Independents have until noon Aug. 3 to file for election.
8. When are advance voting ballots counted?
Election officers don't tabulate advance votes until election day.
9. There's no presidential race, but what jobs are up for grabs in Kansas this year?
Voters will be responsible for selecting one U.S. senator, all four U.S. representatives, all 125 state representatives, two state senators, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer and insurance commissioner.
Also on the ballot are five seats on the state Board of Education (Districts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9), dozens of judicial positions, Douglas County Commission.
10. How much does it cost to register?
There is a free lunch after all. Registration costs nothing.
11. In the primary, do I have to vote in every race?
No. Voters can turn in a ballot unmarked, vote in every race or make selections in a handful of races. Registered Republicans choose from candidates in the GOP primary, while registered Democrats pick from among Democratic Party candidates. In the November general election, voters can tab folks of any political stripe.
-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.