JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. — Less than two hours after polls closed in Kansas, the Johnson County Election Office posted its final unofficial election results.
Election Commissioner Connie Schmidt said the large number of advance ballots helped expedite the results. About 80% of voters cast their ballots early.
“I think people are energized,” she said. “We just had so much enthusiasm and contact with all the voters coming in for the last two to three weeks.”
In Kansas, election officials are allowed to open and process ballots before Election Day. But not every state allows this.
Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin state election laws prohibit election officials from processing mail-in ballots prior to Election Day.
“What we are seeing now is a byproduct of how the Constitution designed this process,” said Christoper Gunn, an adjunct professor at Washburn University School of Law. “Article I of the Constitution gives near total power to each individual state to determine how their elections are arranged and executed.”
This year, because of the pandemic, many voters across the country chose to vote by mail.
“We had a lot of states this time around that usually don’t have mail-in ballots at all," Beth Vonnahme, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UMKC, said. "They might have a handful, a thousand or so, and now it’s in the millions and on the hundreds of thousands."
And this is what has caused delays.
Mail ballots take more time and resources to process than in-person votes. Election officials, for example, need to verify signatures, open envelopes, separate ballots from secrecy sleeves and sort them. After all of this is done, they are fed through tabulators.
“There is a whole machinery that begins the minute ballots are cast either by advance means or Election Day in-person,” Gunn said. “The final vote is not likely to be known until maybe the end of next week.”
States like Kansas are still accepting, processing and counting mail ballots through Friday.