By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
This year’s general election is scheduled for Nov. 2, and the Seward County Clerk’s office will begin mailing out advance ballots on Oct. 13.
Those receiving ballots by mail will see something different than they are used to this year. The clerk’s office has a new ballot envelope, and elections deputy Crystal Clemens explained what voters should expect.
“Our old ones used to be a big yellow envelope,” she said. “Voters are going to see something different when they get their ballot by mail, especially permanent advanced voters.”
County clerk Stacia Long said the new envelopes have decals depicting that it is for election mail. She said voters need to pay close attention to the envelope and understand that it contains their ballot.
“It’s not junk mail,” Long said. “The main reason for that was to save postage. I don’t remember how much we decided it was going to save, but quite a bit.”
With the old envelopes, Long said for a voter to return the ballot would cost more than a regular stamp.
“With this, when they mail the ballot back, it will be just a regular stamp,” she said. “It will be less for them as well.”
Long said the new envelopes are white with the marking “Official Ballot” right on the envelope.
“That’s the one they mail it back in,” she said. “It is still required that the voter sign. When they return it, they have to sign the envelope, and we check their signature against our voter files. They have to sign the outside of their envelope for it to count.”
Clemens said there will be a label on the envelope, and voters will sign the envelope before returning it.
“If they get assistance, they sign over here,” she said. “It’s the look. The appearance of it is so much different.”
Also new for the 2010 election, ballots will now be folded when sent out, according to Long. Clemens said another change is that voters must now provide their own writing instruments.
“We’ve had people come in and say ‘Well, you used to send us the pencils,’” she said. “It’s postage. They can use any pencil, any black, blue pen that they want to use to mark the ballot with as long as they darken the oval completely.”
Long said there are no changes in the ballot itself, but Clemens did say it will be longer than usual.
“We’ve got judges on it, constitutional amendments, the Liberal city tax question,” she said. “A lot of people, especially county residents, are going to think, ‘Why isn’t that on mine?’ That is only for Liberal city residents.”
Long said the longer length will mean voters will be taking a little more time than they are used to in order to cast a ballot.
“The constitutional amendments, there are two,” she said. “An individual can go online and get the ballot so that they can review the question prior to going to the polls so that they fully understand the question and the way they want to vote before they go to the polls.”
That site is www.voteks.org, and Clemens said information will also be available on Seward County’s Web site at www.sewardcountyks.org.
“We’re going to try to put a link not only so they can see sample ballots, but they can go and research the judges if they need to,” she said. “I think voters forget that just because it’s on the ballot doesn’t mean they have to vote on it.”
Long said the ballot is one of the longest she and Clemens have seen. Clemens said the ballot is four columns, 8-and-a-half-inches wide by 14-inches long with questions on both sides. She said the touch screen voters will see at the polls on Nov. 2 is nine pages long.
Clemens emphasized electors do not have to cast a vote on everything on the ballot.
“They can vote everything, and if they’re unsure about something, they don’t have to,” she said. “That’s just an option they have, and I don’t think voters realize it.”
Long added many voters will not understand the questions on the ballot, and she strongly urges them to find out what the questions are and what they mean before going to the polls.
“My poll workers will not be able to educate them on the question,” she said. “Do your homework before you go.”
Ballots will be mailed out starting Oct. 13, advanced voting will begin Oct. 18, and that is also the deadline for voters to register for the general election.