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Kansas: How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts in the 2020 Election

What you need to know, including key deadlines, registration details, and how to vote by mail.

Grace Han/Thrillist

If you don't have every intention of voting in the upcoming November 3 election, it's time to rethink. Your voice could have an actual impact on the nation. And the best way to ensure you're eligible, registered, and ready to vote is to be aware of all the upcoming deadlines and requirements. 

Kansas allows you to vote early, in person, or by mail, but each method -- as well as the different ways you can register -- come with their own set of guidelines and cutoff dates. Here's everything you need to know. 

What's the deadline to register to vote in Kansas?

Kansas offers three ways to register to vote: online, by mail, or in person at your county clerk's office. For all three ways, the deadline to register is October 13. If you're registering via mail, your envelope must be postmarked by the 13th, so be sure to get it in the mail in advance of that cutoff to be safe. 

By the way, you can check your voter registration status on Kansas' VoterView website.

How to register to vote in Kansas

First, let's go over the voter registration requirements. All voters in the state must be a citizen of the United States and a resident of Kansas, as well as 18 years-old by the time of the election. If you have already completed the terms of a felony conviction and received a certificate of discharge you are allowed to vote, but if you are still serving that conviction, you are ineligible. You also cannot claim the right to vote in another place or under any other names. 

Phew, now that you've hopefully checked those boxes, let's get down to the details. Far and away the easiest -- and almost certainly the safest -- way to register to vote is submitting an application online. All you have to do is head over to the Kansas Secretary of State's online voter registration page and fill out your info. It's so easy that you have no excuse for not getting it done -- and ASAP. Really, do it right away. 

Of course, you also have the option to register by mail (print this form, fill it out, and mail it to your local clerk) or in person at your county clerk's office, by why in the world would you do that when it's so quick and easy to register online? 

Can I vote early? When does early voting start in Kansas?

Yep. Kansas offers early voting both in person or by mail, and it would behoove you to consider it as a way to avoid the crowds and long lines at polling places on Election Day. This way, you can get it all out of the way and not have to worry about anything come November 3. 

Early voting periods will vary from county to county, so be sure to check to see when and where you can early vote near you. Typically, early voting across the state takes place between October 14 and November 2. Early voting ends statewide at 12pm on November 2, according to the Secretary of State's voter information site.

Can I vote by mail? 

If you want to avoid fellow voters altogether during the pandemic (we don't blame you!), you can also vote early by mail. All you have to do is request an advance ballot by completing an application in which you'll include your driver's license number or a copy of your photo ID. You don't need a specific reason or excuse for requesting this kind of ballot, so it's a great option for staying safe while voting. Just don't sleep on this option. It'll take some time and you don't want to miss the deadlines (we'll get to that in a minute).

How to request an advance ballot in Kansas

Fill out the aforementioned application, include your ID information, and return it to your local election office either by mail or by dropping it off in person (you can find the address listed on the last page of the form). All advance ballot applications must be received by October 27, but that's cutting it dangerously close to the election and you might not receive your ballot with enough time to complete it and get it back to election officials to be counted. 

If you're running close to the deadline, contact your local election office to see if they'll accept your application via email or fax. Don't wait that long, though. If you want to receive an advance ballot by mail, request one immediately.

How to vote by mail with an advance ballot in Kansas

Kansas will begin sending advance ballots for the 2020 General Election on October 14. After your advance ballot application is received and approved, you'll receive the ballot in the mail. The next step, of course, is to complete your ballot, which will probably be pretty easy unless you're still undecided. Just remember to carefully follow the advance ballot's instructions and make sure you sign your signature so that it matches the signature the state has on file with your voter registration. 

Finally, you need to get you advance ballot back to election officials by the deadline. All ballots must be postmarked no later than Election Day and received by your county election office by the close of business the Friday after the election, November 6. 

Is there a way to track my advance ballot? How can I make sure it's counted?

You can track your ballot status on the state's VoterView website

Another step you can take to ensure you vote is counted is to carefully follow the ballot directions and get it back to election officials well before the deadline. It's also a good idea to avoid tearing or otherwise damaging your ballot materials so that it's not thrown out on some sort of technicality. 

How can I stay safe while voting in person?

Polling places statewide will be open from 7am to 7pm on Election Day.

While voting by mail is likely the safest way to participate in this election, there are ways you can reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 if you plan to vote in person at your local polling place. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has issued safety recommendations for voters.

Here's a rundown of what the CDC recommends, per its official election guidance page:

  • Wear a mask. 
  • Keep a distance of at least six feet from others at all times.
  • Wash your hands both before and after leaving your polling location.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol frequently throughout your time inside the polling place, especially after you touch things like door hands, voting machines, and other surfaces that lots of other people touch.
  • If you cough or sneeze, cover them with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Dispose of the tissues in a lined garbage can, then use that 60% alcohol hand sanitizer again. 
  • Don't try to disinfect the voting machine or equipment yourself because you may end up damaging them with cleaners and disinfectant products. This is where hand sanitizer comes in again. Use it right after you touch the voting equipment, and if you use it before you touch the equipment, make sure your hands have dried first.
  • Try to vote when your polling place isn't as busy. This might involve driving by and checking to see how long the line is.
  • Verify that you're registered to vote before you leave home and make sure you bring any documents you'll need to avoid complications that could result in spending more time inside the polling place. In Kansas, you'll need to show your photo ID. Accepted forms include the following: a driver's license or non-driver's ID card issued by Kansas or by another state, a concealed carry handgun license; US passport; government employee badge or ID; military ID, student ID from an accredited postsecondary institution of education in Kansas, government-issued public assistance ID, or Indian tribal ID.
  • Bring your own black ink pen for marking your ballot, or your own stylus (just check with a polling place worker before you use it). 
  • If possible, fill out a sample ballot at home that you can use to speed up casting your ballot at the polling location.

Additional Kansas voting resources: 

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Megan Schaltegger is a staff writer at Thrillist.