Navigating the Voter Maze in 2020
Leavenworth County – 2020 General Election Guide
Social media is a-buzz with questions and concerns about the upcoming 2020 general election Some of it is true, but true to social media – much of it is conjecture and rumor. The confusion is real – and understandable. 2020 has been a crazy ride.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created shifts in how people gather, how they shop, how they conduct any kind of routine business – and how they are going to vote.
To avoid unnecessary exposure to the virus, greater measures have been taken to ensure that the voices of the voters are honored while also guarding their health and safety.
But – if ever there was a time to test any individual’s skills in paying attention to details, this is the time – and the year – for that.
In any regular election year, there are specific steps to becoming a registered voter, finding the right polling place and finally slipping that ballot into the ballot reader to earn a simple little sticker that says something a lot of Americans consider a point of personal pride: “I voted.” This year, though, with a pandemic, more Americans than ever will be voting with advance ballot measures. Naturally, there are questions.
Fortunately, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a bi-partisan commission formed by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, allocated CARES Act funds to states to assist with the unusual circumstances of voting during a global pandemic in 2020. At present, two of the commissioners are appointees of President Donald J Trump and two of the commissioners are appointees of President Barack H. Obama.
The Help America Vote Act (HAVA), “requires that states implement the following programs and procedures”
- Provisional Voting
- Voting Information
- Updated and Upgraded Voting Equipment
- Statewide Voter Registration Databases
- Voter Identification Procedures
- Administrative Complaint Procedures
There is also a National Mail Voter Registration Form. It is in 15 different languages. This form “was developed in accordance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.” The National Mail Voter Registration Form is for use by U.S. Citizens except North Dakota, Wyoming and U.S. Territories. New Hampshire accepts the form only for absentee ballots. Military member and overseas voters should use www.fvap.gov.
The goal of this article is to provide the information needed, alleviate concerns and give people the resources, options and encouragement to participate in the election process in Leavenworth County, Kansas with added information for residents of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Regardless of political party, election officials are mandated and dedicated to helping citizens vote. As a state, Kansas has guidelines and policies but not the obstacles that other states may have.
Anytime a person has any questions about voting, in Leavenworth County, Janet Klasinski, who is the County Clerk for Leavenworth County and who serves as the Leavenworth County Election Officer – wants you to call her, she said. Her office phone number is: 913-684-0421.
The location of the office is: 300 Walnut Street, Suite 106, Leavenworth, KS 66048 (Leavenworth County Courthouse).
Fort Leavenworth voters can visit Fort Leavenworth Voter Assistance Program website. More information is included at the end of this article for Fort Leavenworth residents.
The first step for Kansas residents is to check voter registration status, which can be done at the Kansas Secretary of State Registration Information site. In Leavenworth County, the voter registration phone number is: 913-684-0419.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission site allows you to check your voter registration from whichever state you registered. Select your state.
Start with looking at these important dates that are posted on the Kansas Secretary of State website (click the red lettered hyperlink).
Register to Vote by October 13 “You must re-register to vote each time you change your name, address or party affiliation for voting.”
You will need:
If I do not have a current and valid Kansas driver’s license number or Kansas nondriver’s identification card number, I must provide a copy of one of the following forms of photo identification with this application in order to receive a ballot.
- Driver’s license issued by Kansas or another state
- Nondriver’s ID card issued by Kansas or another state
- U.S. passport
- Concealed carry of handgun license issued by Kansasor another state
- Employee badge or ID document issued by a government of ce3. Personal Information Please print.
• U.S. military ID
• Student ID card issued by an accredited Kansas postsecondary educational institution
• Public assistance ID card issued by a government of ce • ID card issued by an Indian tribe
The advance ballots can be put in the U.S. Mail. For Leavenworth County, at least, there is no postage required by the voter.
But there’s still something to watch out for: The ballots MUST be postmarked by November 3, election day – and received by the Friday after the Tuesday election date – November 6.
There is no provision in voting laws for how quickly the U.S. mail is accountable for handling ballots other than to stamp them as received. How long the ballot takes to travel through the postal service is out of the control of the voter and out of the control of the County Clerk. Fact: A ballot postmarked by Election day is not guaranteed by any statute to arrive at the Election office by Friday, November 6th.
Kansas allows for advance voting to begin October 14th. A registered voter can advance vote in person at the County courthouse starting on October 14th through November 3, 2020. The location for this in-person voting is the Leavenworth County Clerk’s office, 300 Walnut Street, Suite 106, Leavenworth, KS.
Masks are required at this location but Klasinski plans to be accommodating to ensure voters get to exercise their right to vote.
“I will ask them to wear a mask. I absolutely will. Masks are mandated in the Courthouse. If someone refuses to wear a mask, I may take a ballot outside to them and have them vote and put it in an envelope for them because I want it to be secure. I’m certainly not going to refuse the right to vote to anyone,” Klasinski said.
“I did have that happen one time in the primary,” she explained further. “The lady was very accommodating. She did vote in the foyer – she didn’t come into the hallway. And she was satisfied with that. I don’t know if I’ll have much of that or not [people wanting to come in the Courthouse to vote but not wanting to wear a mask.]”
Katie Koupal, election spokesperson with Kansas Secretary of State’s office echoed Klasinski’s statements to protect voter rights. “There are only three criteria set out by Kansas statute for voting: age, citizenship and residency,” Koupal said. This generous allowance gives the election official the direction needed to make decisions that ensure a registered Kansan gets to vote when there are challenges presented – like the COVID-19 pandemic and various mask mandates, for instance.
“At the Courthouse, masks are required but I have a higher authority,” said Klasinski. “My authority over masks is if somebody comes in (to vote) and they refuse to wear a mask, I will let them in to the Courthouse. I just know I will. I will not refuse to the right to vote to anyone.”
The popular solution for 2020 has been advance by mail ballots. Election officials are highly skilled and trained with the latest equipment and safeguards to help voters navigate advance by mail voting if they are new to the popular idea – or even if there is just concern or skepticism.
In 2016’s general election, Kansas sent out 202,138 advance ballots.
So far, for 2020’s general election – as of the morning of October 1, 2020 – 398,455 advanced by mail ballots applications have been fulfilled by the state, according to the latest figures October 1, 2020 from the Secretary of State’s office.
“We wouldn’t be surprised to go over a half million,” Koupal said. “We believe it due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are requesting advance by mail ballots to have that additional level of precaution.”
In Leavenworth County, Klasinski has been the election officer for the past 12 years. She said 2020 is unprecedented.
Normally, about 7,500 advance ballots are mailed out by her office to voters who wish to vote by mail.
In 2020, that number swelled to 15,000.
Klasinski said that the Leavenworth County advance by mail ballots will go out (get mailed) to voters October 14th.
Voters wishing to mail their ballots back in are encouraged to do so as soon as possible (rather than wait until the last minute) to make sure they are received by the County Clerk on time. Once the ballot has been mailed, the voter can check the status of that ballot by going to the Kansas Secretary of State website VoterView (click the red hyperlink letters).
Voters can put their advance by mail ballot into one of FIVE ballot boxes in Leavenworth county. There were three ballot boxes. But the State of Kansas received federal funds via the CARES ACT to help voters navigate COVID-19 issues. During the 2020 election process, each county in Kansas was offered two additional ballot boxes by the state. Leavenworth County opted to accept both additional ballot boxes. The additional boxes will be placed at Leavenworth City Hall and Basehor Community Library.
“There were 12 counties that opted not to accept additional ballot boxes and some that only added one,” said Koupal. This left extras that were accepted by more populated counties, such as Johnson County, who accepted seven extra ballot boxes.
“We would have ordered more [anyway],” said Leavenworth County’s Klasinski, “but when the Secretary of State’s office offered them, I just took them up on it. It didn’t cost my tax payers anything.”
Koupal said the boxes just started getting shipped out to the Kansas counties this week from the supplier.
These ballot drop boxes are highly secure. They are secured in concrete, made of steel, tamper-proof, require a two-key access, are clearly marked and labeled and are placed in lighted locations with parking and/or drive-through options near camera surveillance locations. The boxes cost about $6000 each.
Chain of custody logs are required each time ballots are collected. Ballot collection varies by the population of the county and how often the box needs to be emptied but it is no less than once a day. The ballot are collected in a box that is locked and transported directly back to the Clerk’s office. They are then placed in a secured, locked room.
Klasinski said that there are two keys required to collect ballots. The people collecting the ballots are staff from her office.
“It is different people from my office. It might be myself, it might be my deputy – but it is not just a random election worker. It’s people who specifically work for me. Two people go together to open them. I trust each one of the people that I work with. They are long time employees,” said Klasinski. “I’ve got one that has been with the county for 40 years. I’ve been the clerk for 12. She’s worked for me all that time. I’ve got another than’s worked for me seven years. Everybody’s more than five – most 10 or 20.”
Leavenworth County Election office employees are people who live and work in Leavenworth County.
“I live in Kickapoo,” Klasinski said. “Another lady lives in Tongie. I’ve got people who live in Lansing.”
“I feel really that Leavenworth County, we hold the highest integrity elections. I know what we do,” Klasinski emphasized. “I know exactly what we do. I know the security and the work that we put into making sure that we run the fairest elections in the country. I truly mean that. I trust my people. And I trust the voters out there, too.”
Ballot box integrity and voter integrity are critical trust factors for voters always. Some of the social media memes circulating during this election year (and other election years) suggest that there is a lot of voter fraud. Klasinski emphatically disagrees.
“I don’t feel that we have voter fraud in Leavenworth,” Klasinski said. “In my years of working elections, one time I had someone do a double vote. It was an older gentleman who was very confused – he voted in advance then he went to the polling place. We actually CAUGHT IT. It was an honest mistake. It was the only case we have seen in Leavenworth County as far as the double voting. Even the police went and visited with him. That’s how serious we take it here.”
I don’t think that anyone intentionally tries to have any sort of voter fraud,” she said. “It takes a little bit of trust. And I have that. And I think people trust me. I hope that they trust me.”
The 2020 election is going to be a challenging one for Klasinski and her staff. She explained how they are prepared for this. If a person, for instance, applied for and received an advance ballot but throws it away, changes their minds and instead decides to vote in person:
“It’s not a problem – but you’re going to have to vote a provisional ballot first of all,” Klasinski said. “And then when that provisional ball comes back, we’re certainly going to make sure that your advance ballot did not come back.”
A provisional ballot or “provisional voting” was introduce in Kansas in 1996 as a result of the National Voter Registration Act.
“We’re going to have that happen a lot,” Klasinski said. “We’re going to be mailing out 15,000 ballots the 14th of October. I know people are going to lose their ballots. They’re not going to get their ballot in the mail, they are are going to get their ballot and then they’re going to say ‘I want to go to the polling place,'” she said, lining out several scenarios the election office may have to handle.
Another possibility is that a person might become concerned that they did not receive their advance ballot.
“If somebody [in Leavenworth County] doesn’t get their advance ballot a few days after the 14th of October, I hope that they’re calling the office and they’re saying ‘I didn’t get my ballot’,” Klasinski said. “Because they can come up to the Courthouse and get a replacement ballot. I know that’s going to happen. It happens every single election year where someone doesn’t get their ballot in the mail.”
There are also scenarios where people may change their minds for whatever reason about voting with an advance ballot.
“We have taken several calls from folks in the last couple of weeks where they have that advance ballot on file and they call us and say ‘We really think we want to go to the polls’ and that is NO PROBLEM for us,” Klasinski said. “We go in and cancel so they won’t get an advance ballot in the mail. They can just go to the polling place.
However, the cutoff to cancel an advance ballot is Oct. 11. The staff will need to look for the voter’s advance ballot in the alphabetize stacks of 15,000 envelopes and pull that advance ballot so that voter can then go to the poll to vote instead.
“We are packing [ballots to mail out] NOW,” Klasinski said during the October 1 interview with HeartKC. “We have to be able to find that ballot so it doesn’t go out in the mail. That’s a lot of ballots – 15,000 – to be able to find that particular person. We keep everything in alphabetically order so that when that happens, we can go pull that envelope. As it gets closer to mail them out and we’re having to put postage on, then we may not be able to find that ballot to pull. Just logistically that’s what it would be.” Once the ballot goes out in the mail, the voter must use that ballot once the voter receives it or contact the Leavenworth County clerk’s office to make other arrangements for voting.
In-person voting is still absolutely an option. Things will physically look different at the polling places this year. Voters who voted in the primary may already have a good idea what these changes looked like but more are implements to protect in-person contact. Both Klasinski and Koupal stressed that voters may encounter what will LOOK like longer lines – but, in fact, it will be the social distancing and special pandemic provisions will be in place. Social distancing, masks and hand sanitizer will be available. The poll workers will have shields between themselves and the voters. Special stylus pens are being used also instead of touch screens. The special features were put in place by the added federal funds that were allocated by the state of Kansas to help people have a safe voting experience during the pandemic, Koupal said.
Voters who requested and receive their advance ballots may fill them out and drop them off at any of the five county ballot boxes OR any polling place on election day OR at the Courthouse. Early mailing of ballots is highly encouraged if voters choose to put their ballots in the U.S. mail. No postage is required for Leavenworth County ballots. The county pays the postage.
- Leavenworth County Courthouse 300 Walnut Street, Leavenworth, KS.
- Tonganoxie Annex 725 Laming Rd, Tonganoxie, KS 66086
- Lansing City Hall 800 1st Ter, Lansing, KS 66043
- Leavenworth City Hall [new] 100 N 5th St, Leavenworth, KS 66048 (to be installed)
- Basehor Community Library [new] 1400 158th St, Basehor, KS 66007
- Any Leavenworth County polling place on Election day
Voters should be aware that they sign their advance ballots. They should sign their ballot closely to the way they signed when they registered to vote on their voter identification documents. If there is a question about a voter’s signature, the election office is required to take “extraordinary measures” to contact that voter and make them aware of the problem and give that voter an opportunity to resolve any question about their identity, said Katie Koupal with the SOS office. This may mean making a phone call, email, whatever means is available.
“There was one small town election office where the election official actually drove over to the person’s house,” Koupal said.
Each day after ballots are collected from the boxes, each box is opened and each envelope is scanned. Each envelope has a security strip on it. “We don’t take the ballot out,” at that point, said Klasinski. “We jut scan the bar code and that gives that voter history that voter has voted in this election.”
About a week before election day, the final phase of handling advance ballots begins for the Leavenworth County Clerk’s election office staff.
“A special three person board comes in and we go ahead and open the envelope – take out the folded ballot,” Klasinski said. “We separate the ballots from the envelope. At that point, we keep the envelopes – because we have to keep that information for 22 months. The envelopes are packed away. The ballots are counted. If I’ve got 100 envelopes, then I’d better have 100 ballots.
“One week before the election, we will begin scanning those ballots into the DS-200 which is also done with a couple of different people. They are scanned in. No reports are ran. We cannot wait for the last day [to scan the ballots dropped off in ballot boxes] to do that.”
Klasinski said that there was about a 34% turnout for the 2020 primary election in Leavenworth County – about 16,000 voters. There were 48,000 registered voters for the primary.
She thinks there will be an uptick to 50,000 registered voters for the general election. “We had a lot of folks registering to vote as we always do before a general election.”
“I’m anticipating about a 75% turnout for the general,” Klasinski said.
In 2016, the voter turn out was about 65% and the 2018 was about a 64% turnout for the mid-term election.
“But [this year] I had about a 10% higher turnout for the primary so that’s why I’m anticipating probably a 10% higher turnout for this general election,” Klasinski said.
I feel really good about these ballot boxes,” she added. “People have been having a lot of worries about the mail and in a sense, I do, too. That is why I’m encouraging the use of the ballot boxes [for advance ballots.]
Kansas Representative Jeff Pittman District 41, echoed that sentiment.
“I think that election drop boxes complement the postal services for ensuring all voters’ have access to their right to vote in a safe and reliable way,” Pittman said. “I know we have used voting boxes in Leavenworth County for years and it’s a great secure service.”
“I also know that many voters I talk to at the door do not trust that the mail will be a secure method for voting due to potential interference,” he added. “They, therefore, are counting on the drop box as a preferred method to deliver in their advanced ballots to the county clerk. I think that the federal money is a good faith attempt to ensure voters have secure methods available to make their vote count.”
On March 27, 2020, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed into law. This Act included $400 million in new Help America Vote Act emergency funds to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus for the 2020 federal election cycle.” Federal money came from U.S. Election Assistance Commission CARES Grant Funding, which awarded $4,622,500 to Kansas. With the state matching funds, Kansas got $5,547,001 towards election assistance in 2020. There are FAQs on how the funds can be used, which include information on some of the additional possible expenses incurred due to the unusual voting circumstances.
Klasinski repeated that she wants voters to reach out to the County Clerk’s office if they have any questions or concerns. “I would rather nip something in the bud – a rumor that is incorrect or something on social media that is not correct. I’m just very available for questions,” she said.
Military members and their families – and Federal civilian employees – have plenty of help at hand also at Fort Leavenworth. The Voting Assistance Office at Fort Leavenworth is standing by with answers and solutions for its military members.
Answers can be found by visiting the Federal Voting Assistance Program website.
The phone number for the Voting Assistance Office Fort Leavenworth is: 913-684-2496.
The email for the Voting Assistance Office Fort Leavenworth is:
The Voting Assistance Office Fort Leavenworth location is:
120 Dickman Ave.
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027
The hours of operation are 0730-1600 M-F Closed the 1st Wednesdays 7:30-11:30.
Kansas residents who have questions about Federal Voting can check with this link at the Kansas Secretary of State’s office for more information.
HeartKC wishes to acknowledge condolences to the family of Leonard Mastroni, Kansas State Representative District 117 who passed away September 30, 2020 in LaCrosse, Kansas at age 71.
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