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Board Of Elections: ‘Woke’ Voters Expected To Drive Increased Turnout In Kansas City, Missouri

Peggy Lowe
KCUR 89.3
Shawn Kieffer, a Republican Kansas City Board of Elections director, stands next to his office, which holds stacks of voting machines. Each one was tested four times before Tuesday’s primary election. ";

Kansas City, Missouri, election officials are expecting a busy day Tuesday, thanks to an 11 percent increase in voter registrations and a significant number of absentee ballots already cast in the primary election.

Between May 31 and the July 11 deadline to register to vote, the Kansas City Board of Elections received 25,000 registrations from people who have either moved, are re-registering or registering for the first time, Democratic board Director Lauri Ealom said.

There are were about 220,000 registered voters in Kansas City before this primary election.

Ealom believes people are reacting to the contentious political climate.

“I think people are beginning to understand the importance of voting. People are more aware, or ‘woke’ is the millennial term,” she said. “They’re ‘woke’ now.”

Absentee ballots are also on the rise, increasing by 25 percent from past elections, said Shawn Kieffer, the Republican board director. Kieffer credited an interest in Proposition A, which, if it passes, would make Missouri a right-to-work state, effectively banning unions from requiring that workers pay dues.

“We can just see more people coming in, requesting absentee ballots, more people coming in to vote absentee, just the political excitement,” he said. “It just seems like we’ll have a nice little election, a nice busy one.”

About 18 percent of voters turned out for the 2014 midterm primary election, Kieffer said, but this year he’s expecting 25 percent for Tuesday’s primary.

For voters who are worried about how much time it will take at the polls, Ealom suggested going during lunch or in the afternoon, when generally there are no lines.

Peggy Lowe is investigations editor at KCUR. She can be reached on Twitter @peggyllowe.

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
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