Standing in Barton County Administrator Phil Hathcock’s office are two brand-spanking new drop-off ballot boxes, festooned in red, white and blue. They are among a host of changes the County Clerk’s Office has made to better accommodate voters for the upcoming Nov. 3 general election amid concerns over COVID-19.
“We just want to make it as easy as possible for Barton County residents to cast their ballots,” said Donna Zimmerman, county clerk and election officer. “We want to encourage every voteer to take this opportunity to vote.”
What about those boxes?
“The two drop-off boxes were provided by the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office,” Zimmerman said. They are among many deployed across the state.
One of Barton County’s will be located in the alley between Central Kansas Community Corrections and the Golden Belt Cinema 6 theater (between 12th and Lakin streets). The other will be in the alley behind the Hoisington City Building, located at 109 E. First, next to the utility bill drop box.
These will be permanently mounted fixtures monitored by surveillance cameras.
“We chose those locations so we could cover the entire county geographically,” she said. But, she stressed, “any Barton County voter can drop their ballots at either location.”
Advanced mail ballots go out Wednesday. So, Zimmerman said the vote drop boxes will be in place by Monday, Oct. 19.
Sure, these are strong, steel structures with heavy-duty locks that are bolted to the ground and watched by cameras, but the security doesn’t end there, she said.
Only a two-person team of sworn election workers will regularly retrieve the ballots. Never will only one person have the ballots.
The team will bring the ballots to Zimmerman’s office where they will be secured in another locked location. “We will know the chain of custody,” she said.
Change of location
For years, Great Bend’s Fourth Ward voters have gone to the City of Great Bend’s Front Door to cast ballots. But, due to COVID-19, the city is not allowing that facility to be used, Zimmerman said.
The new location will be the Great Bend Recreation Commission’s Burnside Room at 1214 Stone. “This will be a permanent change,” she said.
“It’s quite a process to change a voting location,” Zimmerman said. All Ward 4 voters must be notified, and the site has to be measured to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements with those measurements filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.
Safety in the time of COVID
“We will have a number of safety measures in place at polling stations,” Zimmerman said. There will be Plexiglas screens, face covering will be encouraged (masks will be available), there will be hand sanitizer, and all voting equipment will be sanitized after each voter.
“Everyone needs to know the voting process is safe as safe as possible,” she said.
Also, the county received Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) funding from the state to purchase six new ExpressVote ballot marking devices. With the addition of equipment, voting locations will be able to increase social distancing measures and speed along the voting process, thus protecting both the public and election workers against the spread of COVID, Zimmerman said.
Three of the machines will be used in Great Bend, one in Hoisington, one in Elliwnood and one at the Barton County Firing Range on NE 30 Road.
On another safety note, she said those who planned on voting in person, but find themselves under isolation or quarantine orders, have an option. They can call her office under the “sick or disabled” option, and arrangements can be made.
And, as early voting lines grow closer to election day, she advised voters to come in early. This will allow for smaller crowds and easier social distancing.
Voter deadlines approaching
County preparing for advance voting
BY DALE HOGG
With the Tuesday, Nov. 3, general election less than a month away, Barton County Election Officer Donna Zimmerman wants to remind county residents of pending registration deadlines.
• According to Zimmerman, the deadline to register to vote is at the end of the business day Tuesday, Oct. 13. She said those who want ballots mailed to them should apply sooner rather than later.
• Ballot applications are available on the Barton County website, bartoncounty.org. Go to the “Departments” tab and click on “Elections.”
• In order to register, one just needs to be 18 years old on or before the election. Since this is a general election, one does not have to declare a party affiliation.
Zimmerman said they also hope to start in office advance voting Wednesday, Oct. 14, at her office in Room 202 of the Barton County Courthouse, 1400 Main in Great Bend. However, since this is a national election, delays in getting the equipment and ballots may delay this.
• Advance voting will be available through noon, Monday, Nov. 2.
• Mail ballots for those who requested them go out Wednesday.
Zimmerman stressed that voters need to vote with the ballot they receive, and not go to a polling location and ask for another one.
And, as a side note, Zimmerman said the earlier voters return their ballots the better.
• She said her staff will be available for advance voting from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, at the courthouse.
In addition, Zimmerman said any voter can go to Voterview at myvoteinfo.voteks.org/VoterView/Home.do or from the Barton County website at bartoncounty.org/Departments/Elections/ Current Elections. A person can enter their name (typed exactly like it appears on their voter registration) and date of birth, and can learn if they are registered and where they vote, and can see a sample of their ballot (what city/township and county candidates appear on the ballot can depend on what ward or district in which the voter lives).
For more information, contact Zimmerman at 620-793-1835.
Other election deadlines
The deadline to register to vote for the Nov. 3 general election is the end of the business day Tuesday, Oct. 13. Voters may register to vote during regular business hours at the following locations:
• Barton County Clerk’s Office, Room 202, 1400 Main, Great Bend
• All City Clerk’s offices in Barton County
• Barton County Health Department, 1300 Kansas, Great Bend
• Credit Union of America, 4708 10th, Great Bend
• First Kansas Bank, 101 North Main, Hoisington
• Front Door, 1615 10th, Great Bend
• Great Bend Public Library, 1409 Williams, Great Bend
• Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, 1305 Patton Rd., Great Bend
• Kansas Drivers License Examination Department, Barton County Courthouse, 1400 Main, Room 207, Great Bend
• Sunflower Diversified Services Inc., 8823 Fourth, Great Bend
• The Center for Counseling and Consultation, 5815 Broadway, Great Bend