The traditional get-out-the vote push that used to focus on the final hours of a contest, has become an elaborate 45-day operation, with early voting become a major strategy for both the Democrats and Republicans.

Both sides recognize the results on most elections weighs heavily on who shows up at the polls. So the new campaign strategy is vote early. It’s an adage comparable to the old saying “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” In other words, a vote already cast is worth far more than a promised vote on Election Day when potential voters can easily get distracted from voting by other obligations, weather, illnesses, or just plain apathy.

Early voting started becoming popular three decades ago, when localities in California and other western states, looking for ways to stimulate turnout, started mailing ballots to all registered voters. The idea spread eastward as voter increasing enjoyed the flexibility and convenience – and campaigns began to exploit it as an organizing tool.

“This is how we used to vote in America,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who heads the United States Elections Project, which collects information about the country’s electoral system.

Until 1845, states allowed up to a month for voting, to accommodate farmers and other rural residents who faced long trips to polling places. But improved communications and concerns about fraud led Congress to establish the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November as the sole day of voting.

Kansans have three convenient voting options to choose from: Vote early by mail, vote early at a polling locations or vote on Election Day at your polling site.

Vote Early by Mail

To vote by mail, complete an Advance Voting Application and mail, email, or fax it to your county Election Office. The election office begins mailing ballots 20 days before Election Day. By Kansas law, the last day ballots can be mailed is 7 days before the election. This year, that date is Oct. 30. So if you have not already requested a ballot by mail, it’s too late.

If mailing, your ballot must be postmarked by Election Day and received in your county Election Office no later than 3 days after the election. Advanced ballots can also be returned to your county Election Office, any Early Voting location, or an Election Day polling location by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Ballots return to Early Voting locations should only be dropped off during times the polls are open for voting.

Military and overseas voters can vote in federal elections by submitting to the Election Office a completed Federal Post Card Application. This allows a ballot to be mailed 45 days before the election so it can be returned by Election Day.

Vote Early in Person

Go to the Advance Vote Center most convenient for you. They will check you in by computer. You can vote on a voting machine or by paper ballot.

The number of Advance Voting locations, their hours and the start dates vary by county. Whiles some County Election Officers are very generous with their advance voting, others are not. Counties are required to have Advance Voting at the Election Commission Office and the only other consistent rule that applies across the state is that Advance voting at the Election Commission Office is noon on the Monday before the election.

Any registered voter who wishes to vote in advance of Election Day is eligible and may apply for an advanced voting ballot. Advance voting begins 20 days before an election. Ballots will be issued until noon the day before elections; however, advance by mail ballots MUST be turned in before polls close on Election Day at 7 pm.

Vote on Election Day

While you can vote at any Advance Voting Location, on Election Day, you are required to vote at your assigned polling location. IF you show up at a different location, you will have to cast a provisional ballot, all or portions of which may not be counted.

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