Voting has been dubbed a sacred right for all Americans, a privilege we should exercise at every opportunity. Pundits predict a record number of Americans may vote in this year’s election.

Throughout our 159-year history, Kansas has been known for its honest and fair elections and one can assume that should not change this time around. Decisions affecting everything from healthcare to agriculture are debated during the fall campaigns and, on election day we all have an opportunity to pick those who we feel will best represent us on the city, county, state and federal levels of our government. And, if the winners don’t perform as we might like, another election is only two years away.

Reno County Clerk Donna Patton and her staff are to be commended for their efforts to provide multiple options for voting. More than 400,000 Kansans have requested a mail-in ballot, equal to the number that did so during the past two elections. Registered voters interested in voting by mail are required to contact the County Clerk’s office to request a ballot prior to October 27. Ballots can be returned by U.S. mail or in person by placing them in an outdoor drop box in the parking lot of the Courthouse Annex at 125 West First Street and at the Nickerson and Buhler city offices. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by 7 p.m. November 3 or delivered to the County Clerk’s office by that same time.

Advance in person voting kicked off on October 14 at the Courthouse Annex. Voting hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday except for October 14, 21, 27 and 29 when the polls will be open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Saturday, October 24, ballots can be cast 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. On Monday, November 2, advance in person voting is available 8 a.m. to noon and will be closed following that.

Polling stations are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on November 3 throughout Reno County for those wishing to vote in person on election day.

One vote does count as two Cowley County public office seekers discovered following the 1994 election. Joe Shriver, the incumbent legislator from Arkansas City was opposed that year by Danny Jones. After absentee votes were counted along with several ballots that were faxed from several members of the military serving overseas, the race was ruled a tie with 3,031 votes for each candidate.

Three months following the election, the Kansas House of Representatives directed that the fairest way to select a winner was for Janet Jones, the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives to pull a back-gammon chip from a plastic box, resulting in Jones’ election. Two years later, Shriver sought the office and defeated Jones by a landslide. Shriver, in a 2016 interview said he and Jones were friends throughout the process and remain so to this day.

In 1960, after 69 million Americans had voted, barely one tenth one tenth of one percent separated the two presidential candidates, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Kennedy was declared the winner in that the electoral college gave him a 303-219 edge over Nixon. Kennedy’s brother Robert, served as his campaign manager, and joked that if they had done anything less, they would have lost.

In 2000, more than 5.8 million Floridians cast ballots in that year’s presidential election. After multiple recounts and a Supreme Court challenge, George W. Bush was declared the state’s winner by a scant 537 votes.

Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System urges all voters to wear masks and socially distance during this process which will hasten the day when our nation can move beyond the COVID-19 crisis. A little precaution may actually save lives.

Winners of these elections at all levels will face unprecedented challenges during the foreseeable future and we can hope that this process will produce a new era of bipartisanship needed to heal the nation’s wounds.

John Allen, President of the Brookings Institute, summed up voting in a statement urging Americans to exercise their wishes at the ballot box. "Vote in support of the American democracy for which we’ve paid such a huge price, and that gave us this freedom in the first place. Vote for a better tomorrow."

Ken Johnson is the president and CEO of Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System