Panel discusses key Kansas voter information ahead of 2020 elections

photo by: Conner Mitchell

Douglas County Elections Commissioner Jamie Shew, left, presents as panelists Kelly Whitten, Patrick Miller and Alejandro Rangel-Lopez look on.

Updated at 10:44 a.m. Wednesday

As final votes were being cast in Super Tuesday presidential primary contests across the country, a panel discussion at the University of Kansas highlighted important trends and tips that voters in the Sunflower State should be aware of as the 2020 election season begins to unfold.

Chief among those details was how to be civically engaged in the sometimes confusing world of bureaucracy and misinformation.

Alejandro Rangel-Lopez, a KU student from Dodge City, detailed the struggles his hometown faced in recent years over a lack of voting access for minority communities — an issue that has been a focus of national media attention and lawsuits.

“We rely on our elected officials to make the right choices,” Rangel-Lopez said. “(Dodge City’s) story isn’t unique by any means. People from Georgia to North Dakota to Texas and even in our home state have made it more difficult for our citizens to vote.”

Kelly Whitten, KU’s state relations representative, said the first steps in navigating those difficulties come from engaging with local and state elected officials.

Whitten said said she’s “encouraging people to take the time in August, when turnout is a lot less” and people can make more of an impact for their preferred candidate.

Patrick Miller, a KU professor of political science, spoke on the effect a low young voter turnout has both in Kansas and across the country. Even as Bernie Sanders — a candidate well-known for his young base — leads the 2020 Democratic field for president, young voter turnout is down across the states that have already cast ballots, Miller said.

“Younger people as a rule are less likely to vote. If you aren’t participating, don’t complain when your tuition goes up (for example),” he said. “The barriers (other panelists have detailed) need to come down, but one thing we can learn from states that have removed barriers to voting is that if you build it they won’t necessarily come.”

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew, the county’s top election officer, gave panel attendees some information to keep in mind as the state election season moves into full swing:

• The Kansas Democratic presidential primary is May 2. You must be a registered Democrat to vote, and you must be registered at least 21 days before the election.

• Kansas’ primaries for nonpresidential races are Aug. 4.

• The general election is Nov. 3.

• The deadline to change your party affiliation before the August primaries is June 1, and your party registration is then locked in until Sept. 1.

• Voters who are 17 but will be 18 by an election day are eligible to register.

• Voters cannot be registered as an independent and vote in a Kansas primary.

• To vote in Kansas, you need a valid photo ID. The address on the ID does not have to match what’s in the state voter database. Douglas County provides a free photo ID, if needed.

• Advance voting in the fall begins 20 days before the November general election. Mail-in ballots, which must be requested by the Tuesday prior to an election, will count as long as they are postmarked by election day and are received by the Friday following the election.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the days by which mail-in ballots must be postmarked and received.


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