JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. — Wednesday marks the first day election officials across Kansas will be able to mail ballots to voters who have requested a mail-in ballot.
That's going to amount to a lot of mail.
According to data from the Kansas Secretary of State, more than 444,000 voters across the state have requested advance voting applications.
In Johnson County, more than 33 percent of the county's roughly 430,000 registered voters have already requested advance ballots. The story is the same in Leavenworth County, where nearly 30 percent of registered voters have requested an advanced ballot.
Statewide, nearly 24 percent of voters have requested an advance ballot. Election officials say they've never seen numbers this high.
"We really think we are going to have at least 50 percent of our expected to vote on election day in the by-mail category," Johnson County Election Commissioner Connie Schmidt said Monday.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many voters are choosing alternative ways to vote rather than go to the polls in person.
In 2016, the last time Kansans were asked to vote for a president, roughly 202,000 Kansas voters requested an advance ballot. Two years ago in 2018, 194,505 Kansans requested an advance ballot.
The uptick in requests comes as the deadline to register to vote in the state approaches on Tuesday.
"We have a lot of registered voters in Johnson County. We are going to be close to 450,000 before long," said Connie Schmidt, Johnson County election commissioner.
On Wednesday, those highly anticipated ballots will head to the post office.
"The ones we have queued up right now will go to the post office on Wednesday. That's right at 150,000 [ballots]," Schmidt said.
Douglas County, which has the highest percentage of registered voters in the state, is seeing an increase in requests for mail-in ballots.
In 2008, the county processed a then-record 54,000 ballots. As of last Friday, the county had received 29,000 advance ballot requests, representing nearly 37 percent of all registered voters.
"We are mailing on Wednesday more than half of our projected turnout," Shew said.
While county election offices are able to start mailing ballots on Wednesday, Schmidt says it will take time for the ballots to reach mailboxes.
"So, it will take time based on where in the county everyone lives. They will be delivered to their home post office probably through the weekend and part of next week," Schmidt said.
Election officials said voters should fill the ballot out as soon as they are able once they receive it.
"Be sure to sign the back of the ballot envelope. That is really critical. You have to have a signature on the back of the envelope," Schmidt said.
They also ask to be patient while waiting. This time might be stressful for election offices everywhere, but they are excited to see more people participating in the 2020 election.
"The ballots are ready to go. They envelopes are ready to go. They are waiting to go to the post office and to see that amount of envelopes is pretty incredible to see," Shew said.
Douglas County will start early voting on Wednesday.
The Johnson County Election Office announced it has 10 early voting locations, which open at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17. Three of the sites are new as officials expect "historic voter turnout."
Voters can cast their ballots early at the following locations:
- Oak Park Mall (former American Girl Store) 11149 West 95th Street, Overland Park
- Overland Park Convention Center 6000 College Blvd, Overland Park
- Olathe Indian Creek Library 16100 W 135th St, Olathe
- Arts and Heritage Center at 8788 Metcalf Ave, Overland Park
- Hilltop Conference Center at 7700 W 143rd St, Overland Park
- Johnson County Election Office at 2101 E Kansas City Road, Olathe
- Johnson County Northeast Offices at 6000 Lamar Ave, Mission
- Johnson County Sunset Office Building at 11811 S Sunset Dr, Olathe
- New Century Fieldhouse at 551 New Century Pkwy, Gardner
- Okun Fieldhouse at 20200 Johnson Dr, Shawnee
Editor's note: The story oroginally included the wrong start time for advance voting on Oct. 17. The election offices open at 9 a.m.