New Kansas law aims to make voting more convenient

Local

Having the freedom to vote at any polling place of your choice is an option offered only during early voting. 

But now registered voters in Sedgwick County will be able to vote at any polling place thanks to a new law. 

House Substitute for Senate Bill 130 gives county election officials the option to allow registered voters to cast their ballots at any polling place in their county on election day. 

“So if you’re in the county and you’re going to go across town for some reason you could pick a location that works best for you instead of having to go to a designated location,” said Tabitha Lehman, Sedgwick County Election Commissioner. 

“We need to be making it easier for legal voters to vote, it’s very difficult,” said Jerome Tomlinson who lives in Wichita.  “We have a very bad mass transit system . It’s hard for people to get places we need to make it more accessible,”

“All citizens need to be able to vote and it needs to be convenient for all citizens,” said Marion McElroy who lives in Wichita. 

Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman says it will give voters more flexibility, helping cut down on long lines. 

“If you go to a polling place and there’s a line, you can go find one [where] there isn’t,” said Lehman. 

But there are still protections in place to prevent voter fraud. 

“If you check in at one polling location and you go down the road it’s going to show you’ve already voted and if you attempt to vote again that polling location down the road is going to tell you you have to fill out a provisional ballot and at that point we’ll catch you,” said Lehman.  

Lehman says the state is working on establishing rules and regulations for counties to follow.  Therefore, Lehman says they expect to roll out these vote center options by the 2020 primaries in August. 

“We’re continuing to reach out to other jurisdictions across the country that do this and have done this for years,” said Lehman. “We’re learning from them what best practices, what security protocols they have in place all of these things. We feel pretty confident in our processes because we’ve been doing this for 10 years but it’s a much larger scale on election day than early voting. So we want to make sure we get it right.” 

Registered voters in counties other than Sedgwick County will need to check with their local county elections office to see if this election day vote centers will be implemented. 

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