Kansas offers counties drop-off boxes for mail-in ballots

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas secretary of state’s office has offered each of the state’s 105 counties up to two drop-off boxes where people can deposit their absentee ballots for the November election if they don’t mail them in or want to risk voting in person because of the coronavirus threat.

Local election officials had until Friday to respond to the offer, so the state won’t know how many boxes it will need to buy until early next week, said Katie Koupal, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office.

Response to the offer has been varied, she said. Some counties said they already had enough drop-off boxes and didn’t need any more, while others wanted one or two more.

County elections officials are making those decisions against the backdrop of the public uproar over recent mail operation changes and delivery delays. The new postmaster general told senators Friday that election mail would be prioritized for delivery as in years past, but Democrats warn that his cost-cutting initiatives threatened the election.

During the August primary, elections officials saw an influx of mail-in ballots being personally delivered to local elections offices or polling sites instead of people using the postal service, Koupal said.

She attributed that in part to aggressive public outreach efforts informing people of the various options for returning their primary mail-in ballots in Kansas.

Voters returned about 83% of the more than 315,000 mail-in ballots sent out during the state’s primary election.

Kansas has received $4.6 million in federal CARE Act funding that has to be used this year for the election, Koupal said.

It has spent $1 million on Plexiglas shields to protect election workers and voters at polling sites and for personal protective equipment such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, face masks and disposable gloves.

The state set aside about $2.6 million to help reimburse counties for unexpected election expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kansas has a little more than $1 million left, which it plans to use to help pay for the drop boxes, she said.

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