*We are not election workers*
This Tuesday, Oct. 12, is the last day to register if you want to vote in the city general election, coming up Tuesday, Nov. 2.
Lawrence voters will pick from the top six candidates for Lawrence City Commission and Lawrence school board who advanced from the primary election in August. Get up to speed and meet the candidates at this link.
Here’s a quick guide to why Lawrence city elections matter, how to register to vote fast, how to vote from your couch on your own time, and more.
Why should I care?
The city elections, held during odd years, generally see lower turnout than even-year elections, which include statewide and national races. However, local elected officials are often the ones whose actions have the most immediate and visible effects on our day-to-day lives.
For instance, in recent years, the five Lawrence city commissioners have been the decision-makers behind recent speed limit reductions, building the new Lawrence Police Headquarters, basically decriminalizing first-time possession of pot, returning sacred prayer rock In´zhúje´waxóbe to the Kaw Nation, doubling the cost of parking meters and citations, bringing the Lawrence Loop closer to completion, and much more. The city manager — the city’s top administrator — reports to the commission.
The seven-member Lawrence school board is responsible for hiring and evaluating the superintendent, setting educational policy and approving the district’s budget. Board members also participate in negotiations of faculty and staff agreements and give those final approval, and they consider issues of school boundaries, class sizes and more. In a few decisions in recent months, the board has voted to close Kennedy Elementary School to grades K-5, to bring back more equitable sports options for middle schoolers, and to approve retention incentive payments for district employees.
Register to vote
You can register to vote online from any smartphone, tablet or computer with internet access in about five minutes at ksvotes.org. You do not need a Kansas driver’s license or ID to register there.
If you think you’re registered but you’re not sure, you can double-check, too. You can also change your party affiliation, though none of the city races are partisan.
You can register to vote in Kansas if you are a U.S. citizen, a resident of Kansas, and at least 18 years old.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, people who are currently unhoused and need to register to vote “can use the address of any location where you regularly stay including a shelter, house of worship, or park. Although it is not required, it is best to register at an address where you regularly stay AND can receive mail so that you can receive notifications about polling location changes, respond to inquiries about your residency, and receive notice of any problems with an absentee ballot.”
In Kansas, people who have been charged and/or convicted of misdemeanors may vote. People who have been charged but not convicted of felonies retain the right to vote.
People who have been convicted of felonies and lost their voting rights but who have completed any sentence and post-release supervision periods may reregister. However, it is a felony to vote if your voting rights are currently revoked. Here’s more info from the Kansas secretary of state’s office.
For people who are incarcerated, “The county where you are incarcerated is your place of residence if you intend to live there for the foreseeable future,” according to the ACLU. “If you have a home in a different county and intend to return there upon your release, that is your place of residence.”
For other options to register to vote in Douglas County, visit this page.
Vote early by mail
Early voting begins Wednesday, Oct. 13.
Want to vote on your own schedule? If you want to request an advance ballot to be mailed to you, you can do that at ksvotes.org, also. No ID is required. The last day to request a ballot to be mailed to you is Tuesday, Oct. 26.
Don’t forget to sign the back of the envelope.
The county pays for the postage to send your ballot back. You can also drop it in a dropbox at one of the two election offices at the advance voting sites shown below. Mail ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 2, and properly postmarked ballots will be counted if they reach the county clerk by Friday, Nov. 5.
For those who are incarcerated, “Family members and friends can return your registration forms, ballot applications, and completed mail ballots for you. However, you are required to complete and sign the forms and ballot envelope yourself,” according to the ACLU.
People who have permanent illnesses or disabilities may apply for permanent advance voting status. More information about that is available on the county’s website at this link.
Safe at Home voters are on the permanent advance ballot list and vote by mail, according to the ACLU. “The Safe at Home program coordinator will request a ballot from your county election officer. The ballot will be mailed to the program coordinator and then forwarded to you. You will complete the ballot and return to the program coordinator.”
Vote early in person
Starting this Wednesday, Oct. 13, you can also vote early in person. In-person advance voting will run through noon Monday, Nov. 1, which is the day before the election. Photo ID is required.
Here’s the schedule for Douglas County voting sites (from the county’s website; map below):
• Starting Wednesday: Vote from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the county clerk’s office, 1100 Massachusetts St. (the old courthouse), or at the new county clerk and elections office, 711 W. 23rd St., No. 1 (at 23rd and Louisiana streets) until noon Monday, Nov. 1
• Weekend in-person early voting: Vote from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30 at the courthouse (1100 Massachusetts St.) or at the new elections office (23rd and Louisiana).
On Election Day
Regular polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Douglas County residents can check their registration and find their Election Day polling place at this link. Photo ID will be required.
As long as you are in line to vote by 7 p.m., you will be allowed to cast your ballot.
*We are not election workers*
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More 2021 election coverage:
In between questions about economic issues in Lawrence, such as childcare, local purchasing policy, and the Downtown Master Plan, City Commission candidates explained what role they thought the commission should have in the business community in Wednesday’s forum, hosted by The Chamber of Lawrence.