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What the country needs right now is a plan.


Actually it needs lots of plans for how things are going to work if COVID-19 sticks around for months or more. What are we going to do with schools? With businesses? With elections?


Many of our elected officials, especially on the federal level, seem incapable of anticipating what’s ahead. They’re more focused on finding someone to blame for all the awful news.


We would be better served if they also looked ahead and planned for what’s to come.


That includes what we should do about elections.


Many are proposing that states adopt vote-by-mail systems for upcoming elections.


It’s a good idea and should be pursued, but not as the only option.


Expanding use of vote centers and advanced voting, for example, would help spread voting out, making it easier to comply with social distancing requirements and stay-at-home orders.


Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab refused to implement a state law that would have given counties those tools. Although legislators approved the use of vote centers about a year ago, Schwab said he didn’t have time to write the rules and ensure all counties were informed, trained and equipped.


That’s not a response that bodes well for Kansas in its current health crisis.


Of course, all might be fine by the Aug. 4 primary. People might not be worried about a coronavirus that has killed thousands and for which there is no vaccine.


Perhaps President Donald Trump was right when he advised Americans that COVID-19 would just “disappear” one day soon.


But it might be wise to have a plan in case that doesn’t happen, in case the experts are right that the coronavirus will be a threat at some level until we have a vaccine, which is probably about a year away.


The plan for how to hold elections should be taking shape now, and it should be ready to go by July 1, giving officials time to educate voters about changes.


Michael Smith, a political science professor at Emporia State University, has proposed going to voting by mail.


Such states as Washington, Oregon, Utah and Colorado use mail systems, which involve mailing ballots automatically to registered voters. Many of those states also offer other options as well.


Given the present situation, Kansas might also want to set up lots of advance voting centers over at least a three-week period. Some should be near or at senior residential areas to facilitate voting among older voters.


Officials also need to figure out how to provide opportunities to vote for those whose housing situation is changing or will change because of job losses and other circumstances.


The plan could be adjustable, depending on the level of threat. Kansas voters would have more or fewer options, depending on the health advisories in effect, with specific elected and health officials making that determination.


The aim should be to ensure that every eligible citizen is able to vote safely and is encouraged to do so.


No Kansan should accept lack of time as an excuse for failing to develop and execute a plan.


Holding fair and secure elections is a vital function of government. Those unable to fulfill that basic job function should resign now.


In times such as these, real leaders don’t look for excuses or people to blame. They look for answers.


A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.