Elections

Kansas’ five-minute limit in voting booth more a guideline, election officials say

Voters cast their ballots during advance voting at Grace Presbyterian Church. At top right is a sign limiting the voting time to five minutes. The time limit is a state law, although officials say it’s not strictly enforced. (Oct. 29, 2014)
Voters cast their ballots during advance voting at Grace Presbyterian Church. At top right is a sign limiting the voting time to five minutes. The time limit is a state law, although officials say it’s not strictly enforced. (Oct. 29, 2014) The Wichita Eagle

Before voting in advance recently at the Sedgwick County Election Office, Sarah Green saw a sign warning of a five-minute time limit to complete the ballot.

“That made me really nervous,” she said, “because it’s a really, really long ballot with some confusing things on it.”

A state law does limit voting time to five minutes – if other voters are waiting to occupy the same booth. That warning sign also will be there to greet voters on Tuesday, Election Day.

But Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said the regulation is loosely enforced. It’s more of a guideline, she added.

“Our poll workers certainly aren’t sitting there timing people,” she said. “The only time it might come up is if there is a really long line.”

And even then, she said, “A poll worker will offer assistance – ‘Do you have a question?’ – instead of saying, ‘Your time is up. Get off the machine.’”

The time limit has been a state law in some form or another since 1968. At one time, the limit was three minutes.

But other than a person sometimes having trouble operating the voting machine, the time limit has never been an issue, Lehman said.

“Most people just want to vote and leave,” she added.

That was Green’s intention, too. She knew there were two questions on the ballot, so she made sure she looked them over in The Eagle’s Voter Guide before going to the polls.

“I felt prepared to vote,” she said, “but it still took me at least five minutes after triple checking my ballot.

“It made me wonder if I wasn’t prepared to vote, how long would have it taken me.”

One of the two questions on ballots for Wichitans is the proposed 1-cent-on-the-dollar sales tax. In Sedgwick County, there are also sales tax questions for residents of Bel Aire and Valley Center.

The other question is on ballots statewide and asks whether raffles should be legalized and regulated for nonprofits.

“The raffle question has to be the most confusing question ever,” Green said. “People really need to read it before they go to vote.”

That’s Lehman’s suggestion, too. Sedgwick County voters can find their sample ballot by going to the county’s website at sedgwickcounty.org/elections or to the state’s website at myvoteinfo.voteks.org.

“We definitely encourage voters to read questions before they come to the polls,” Lehman said.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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