OSWEGO — Two drop boxes have been installed in Labette County, one in Parsons and one in Oswego, to accept advance ballots that voters fill out for the Nov. 3 general election.
The drop boxes are located inside the Law Enforcement Center in Oswego, just west of the courthouse, and outside the Labette County Judicial Center in Parsons at Central and Broadway. Both are monitored and both will be emptied daily beginning this week.
On Wednesday (today), County Clerk Gena Landis will unlock both of the drop boxes because Wednesday is also the first day advance ballots can be mailed to voters who requested them for the Nov. 3 election.
Landis said the rules for the drop boxes include having a bipartisan team empty the boxes daily. So a Democrat and a Republican from her office will check the box in the Law Enforcement Center (sheriff’s office) daily. She hired a Democrat and a Republican to work as a team and check the box in Parsons daily and drive the ballots to Oswego.
The drop boxes are meant to assist voters, and county clerks, in collecting advance ballots for the general election and in future elections without going through the U.S. Postal Service.
The Kansas Secretary of State’s Office purchased the drop boxes using federal funding meant to bolster the 2020 elections during the pandemic.
The secretary purchased 180 drop boxes for Kansas. Labette County received its two and they were installed Monday. Twelve counties opted out of getting the drop boxes, 79 counties asked for two, 12 counties asked for one, Wabaunsee County asked for three and Johnson County asked for seven, according to Katie Koupal, deputy assistant secretary of state for communications and policy. The drop boxes hold 1,640 ballots and each are made of stainless steel. Each box has multiple security protections to prevent tampering.
Each box cost $2,029, including shipping, Koupal said.
“Accompanying the drop boxes will be security best practices and guidelines (placement, installation, location, etc). The guidance will include evaluations for lighting, security cameras, accessibility, visibility and parking or drive-thru option. Ballots will be retrieved by at least two county election officials or sworn, bi-partisan election boards. In addition, each county will develop additional procedures to ensure chain-of-custody ballot logs are collected, boxes are emptied at least once a day,” Koupal said.
After 7 p.m. Nov. 3, the ballot drop boxes will be locked until the next election.
“So we have to have people standing there at 7 o’clock (Election Day) to make sure that every ballot in there gets pulled and that no new ones can go in,” Landis said.
She said she hopes the boxes will be used for advance ballots only.
Landis told Labette County commissioners Tuesday that some taxpayers have used envelopes sent out by political groups seeking to register voters or to get more voters to apply for an advance ballot. The envelopes have paid postage on them so taxpayers are sending in tax statements and vehicle tag renewals in them without including a filled out registration card or advance ballot application for which they were meant.
Commissioner Lonie Addis got a kick out of it, saying the clerks have taken the payments up to the treasurer’s office.
“This is for real,” Addis said, all in the name of saving postage.
Landis told commissioners the clerk’s office gets these envelopes every once in a while, but she didn’t know how many the office had received.