Topeka’s primary elections are just weeks away. Here is what you need to know to make sure it goes smoothly.

Blaise Mesa
Topeka Capital-Journal
Aug. 3 is the date when Topeka residents will cast their votes in a primary election for candidates running for the District 3 council seat held by incumbent Sylvia Ortiz and the mayor's seat held by outgoing Mayor Michelle De La Isla.

Fourteen candidates are running for six positions in Topeka’s governing body, but before Topekans elect new council members and a new mayor, two races must go through an Aug. 3 primary.

The District 3 council seat held by incumbent Sylvia Ortiz and the mayor's seat held by outgoing mayor Michelle De La Isla both have five candidates running. There is also a primary in USD 345’s school board race.

Here is what else you need to know about the primary election.

When is the last day to register to vote? 

The final day to register to vote is July 13 with advanced mail voting starting the next day. Voter registration will re-open on Aug. 4 for the general election. Voter registration applications are available on the Shawnee County election office's website.  

What changes has the election office undergone recently? 

The election office purchased a new electronic poll book system and 306 Interface boards and cables for printers to use in the upcoming election.

Some of the election equipment was “at the absolute end of their life,” said Shawnee County election commissioner Andrew Howell on June 24. None of the purchases relate to equipment people vote on. Poll books keep track of everyone who is registered to vote while the equipment for printers helps print “tickets” and has nothing to do with ballots.

Howell said the electronic poll books are designed to cut down on the time it takes to vote.

More:14 candidates are vying for Topeka City Council and 5 want to be mayor. Read about each.

The election office is also trying to find a new assistant election commissioner after Mark Stock took a new job at Washburn Tech.

Shawnee County commissioner Bill Riphahn, right, talks with assistant election commissioner Mark Stock last year as election workers count ballots.

“If you don’t work in the election office you probably don’t fully appreciate the complexities and all the things you have to deal with,” Howell said Thursday. “Mark, quite frankly, is one of the best public servants I have ever worked (with).”

Howell said he worked closely with Stock but is confident Stock's absence won’t impact the upcoming election. He said the election office is hoping to fill the position as quickly as possible.

More:Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla's new job has 'everything I ever dreamt of doing'

How can I become a poll worker in Topeka?

The primary election will only have 68 polling places instead of the around 90 locations county-wide elections might have. Because it is a smaller election, Howell said he is “fairly full” for this election but needs more help for upcoming elections.

Those interested in becoming election workers can call 785-251-5900.

“If you have questions about how it works, the best thing you can do is be an election worker,” Howell said. “You get to see it first hand, you get to have the training, (and) you get to have the hands-on approach to learning how it is done and being a part of making democracy happen in your community.”

More:Sylvia Ortiz is Topeka's longest-serving City Council member in history. She says she has more to do.

How can I help people register to vote? 

Recent changes to state legislation prompted concerns about how people can help others register to vote. A house bill criminalized impersonating an election official, which stopped the League of Women Voters and Loud Light from registering voters because the legislation is so vague, the Capital-Journal reported July 1. Howell said the legislation shouldn’t prevent citizens from trying to help people register to vote.

“As long as you are not declaring yourself somehow to be an election official, you are in fine shape to register people,” he said. “I would encourage people to register to vote.”