Douglas County election officer not worried by USPS mailer about advance mail voting

photo by: Dylan Lysen

A U.S. Postal Service mailer, which was sent out nationwide, provides recommendations about requesting an advance ballot and voting by mail for the Nov. 3 general election.

A mailer from the United States Postal Service about advance mail voting has recently reached Douglas County homes after causing some controversy in a neighboring state. But the information on the mailer doesn’t affect much for county voters, a local election official said Tuesday.

The mailer, which was sent out nationwide, appears to provide recommendations about requesting an advance ballot and voting by mail for the Nov. 3 general election, which will include the presidential election. The mailer recommends a voter request an advance mail ballot at least 15 days prior to the general election, and return the ballot at least a week prior.

But the mailer’s information has been challenged, and in Colorado a federal judge recently temporarily barred the USPS from using the mailer in that state, according to a CNN report.

The mailer may also worry some who receive it, as concerns have been raised about the USPS’ role in the general election this fall. Recent changes to the service’s processing protocols caused alarm among voters and some politicians about whether ballots would be returned and counted on time. President Donald Trump later admitted the changes were made to hamper voting by mail, the Associated Press reported.

In Colorado, the federal judge barred the use of the mailer after Secretary of State Jena Griswold filed a lawsuit, arguing that the mailer provided “false statements” because the Colorado election will be completely through the mail and voters do not need to request a ballot.

But that’s not the case in Kansas, where voters are required to request an advance mail ballot, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said. So the mailers, which have been arriving at Douglas County homes in recent days, likely won’t cause much of an issue here, he said.

“I looked it over and it’s pretty generic,” Shew said. “I don’t think it’s as problematic for us as it is for other states.”

The Kansas Secretary of State’s Office is also aware of the mailer, which was sent out nationwide late last week, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Katie Koupal said in an email to the Journal-World. And the state election office also does not appear to have any concerns with them.

When asked for comment on the mailer, Koupal did not directly refer to the mailer but said the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office recommends that residents plan ahead by registering to vote, updating their voter information and determining how they want to cast their ballot.

“We remain committed to ensuring Kansas voters will be able to cast their ballot in November as they have in previous elections — by advance mail ballot, advance in-person voting or in-person on election day,” Koupal said.

Regardless, the mailers could still be slightly misleading for Douglas County voters. While the mailer recommends voters request an advance mail ballot 15 days before the election, voters actually have until a week prior to the election to do so, Shew said.

Additionally, the mailer recommends mailing back the ballot a week before Election Day, but ballots that are postmarked by Nov. 3 and returned to the County Clerk’s Office by the following Friday, Nov. 6, will be counted.

Shew said the conflicting information on the mailer is partly because there are no nationally set standards on elections. Every state has different deadlines and requirements, which makes the mailer confusing — or controversial in some cases — to a national audience. He also noted the USPS did not consult with state election officials to get the correct information.

“Most of us who run elections appreciate the intent, but it would have been helpful if they had spoken to election officials in each state and tailored them to each state,” Shew said.

Douglas County residents have until Oct. 13 to register to vote in the Nov. 3 general election. Those who wish to vote through mail have until Oct. 27 to request an advance mail ballot.

To request a ballot, residents may find an application on the county’s election website or fill out an online application at ksvotes.org.

— Journal-World reporter Conner Mitchell contributed to this report.


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