Kelly encourages use of CARES funds to buy drop boxes for election as Kansas sees ‘historically alarming case numbers’

photo by: Conner Mitchell/Journal-World

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly speaks at a news conference on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Monday spent much of her weekly COVID-19 news conference encouraging counties to use funds allocated to them from the federal CARES Act stimulus to purchase drop boxes for advance mail ballots in the November general election, in part to ease the burden on the U.S. Postal Service.

Kelly said she met last week with Secretary of State Scott Schwab, and, given the historically high number of mail ballots during the Aug. 4 primary, Schwab is giving each of the state’s 105 counties two secure ballot drop boxes. Drop boxes provide a way for voters to securely return their ballots without having to be in contact with a poll worker or any shared voting services.

Because of the current trends of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelly said she was strongly encouraging Kansas counties to expand on Schwab’s allocation of drop boxes by using some of their respective CARES Act funding to purchase as many as they see necessary.

Kelly also shot down any speculation that an increase in ballot drop boxes could lead to voter fraud, a baseless claim championed by President Donald Trump in recent weeks. In reality, voter fraud as a whole is statistically insignificant, and a large majority of such instances are ultimately found to be caused by a clerical error.

“It’s a talking point, but it really doesn’t have much basis in truth,” Kelly said.

The state on Monday confirmed 1,564 new cases of COVID-19 since data was last released on Friday, bringing Kansas’ cumulative case total to 42,612. Kansas also confirmed three additional deaths attributed to the virus, which has now claimed the lives of 446 Kansans.

Kelly used Monday’s news conference to put those numbers into a different perspective. For example, the 42,612 Kansans known to be infected with the respiratory virus is more than the total population of Hutchinson, in south central Kansas, and is more than double the population of Cherokee County, which sits at the state’s southeast corner.

And the 446 people killed by the virus, Kelly said, is equivalent to wiping out entire small towns such as Axtell, Edna and Lucas.

“We can’t simply gloss over these historically alarming case numbers. And we can’t ignore the scope of the damage we will face if the coronavirus continues to race through our communities,” Kelly said. “We risk even more Kansans catching a virus that can result in long-lasting health problems. We risk hospitals reaching their bed capacity, we risk our businesses, we risk our jobs and we risk our schools. Worst of all, we risk more Kansans losing their lives.”

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