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Politics, Elections and Government

Missouri Primary Voting In Kansas City — Coronavirus Prevention And Mayor Lucas Turned Away

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Noah Taborda
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KCUR
Voters arrive early on Tuesday to cast ballots at The Whole Person center on Main Street in Kansas City, Missouri.

This story was updated at 12:10 p.m. Tuesday, March 10. 

Missouri voters around the Kansas City metro head to the polls Tuesday to vote for their choice in the 2020 presidential primary.

Much of the focus will be on the Democratic race, which has turned into a two-man contest between former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. But Missouri voters can also cast ballots for the Republican, Libertarian, Green and Constitution Party candidates.

In the closely watched Democratic contest, Misssouri has 68 pledged delegates and 10 superdelegates on the line.

Will Hansen was one of the first in line at the Don Bosco Center in Kansas City Tuesday morning. He said his excitement is what got him out the door.

“I was here early in the midterms [in 2018], and I'm here early now. In the last few years, I've been a lot more involved than before. This is something that I'm excited and happy to do,” he said.

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Credit Noah Taborda / KCUR
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KCUR 89.3
Voters wait in line at The Whole Person center in Kansas City, Missouri. Democrats were selecting from a slate of 22 candidates now been whittled down to two front runners, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Robert Stroker, voting at a church in Kansas City's Hyde Park neighborhood, said his choice came down to electability. He voted for Joe Biden.

“I think he’s got a much better shot at beating [President] Trump in a general election than Bernie Sanders. But if Bernie Sanders is the candidate, by all means, he’ll have my vote, ” said Stroker.

But Matthew Wolz at the Tony Aguirre Community Center near downtown said electability has never been a factor for him. Instead, he has a unique way of choosing his candidate.

“I use the Select Smart website. I've been using it for the last three or four cycles now. It aligns you to the person who best fits your stance rather than all the other reasons that people use,” said Wolz.

Having taken Select Smart's online questionnaire, Wolz said he would be voting for Sanders. 

Meanwhile, Lori Davis said she wasn’t impressed by her options at the polls after former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren dropped out after Super Tuesday last week.

“I struggle with it being the same type of candidate. Again, we have older white men, but that’s what we have. And maybe that's the best for beating Trump,” said Davis.

Kansas City mayor turned away 

Early voting wasn't without issues. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas tweeted that he was turned away from the polling place where he has voted in previous elections.

He later tweeted an update, "Talked to the election director this AM and will be following up further. If the mayor can get turned away, think about everyone else... We gotta do better." 

A few hours later, Lauri Ealom, the Democratic Party Election Director for the Kansas City Election Board, tweeted out her explanation of what happened. She said the poll worker "entered [Lucas'] information incorrectly," transposing his name, entering Lucas' last name as his first and his first name as his last. 

Ealom went on to say that if any other voters experienced trouble at the polls they could still vote using provisional ballots. 

Lucas said he would return to his polling place at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to cast his ballot. 

Coronavirus prevention 

Amid heightened fears of the nationwide spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, Kansas City-area election officials took exra precautions ahead of Tuesday's vote.

Jackson County Election Director Tammy Brown said they sent out disinfectant wipes to all polling places and encouraged poll workers to regularly wipe down voting machines and styluses voters use to make their selections. 

But, she said, some polling places may be lacking hand sanitizer. 

"By the time we looked into hand sanitizer, we had already started delivering it to our polls and that's when prices all spiked and we couldn't find enough to get to all locations," she said. 

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Election Board sent sanitary kits to each polling place. 

"We have sanitary wipes, Purell, Lysol spray, anti-bacterial spray, alcohol wipes," said Shawn Kieffer, the Republican Election Director of the KCEB. 

Polls stay open in Missouri until 7 p.m. Local election officials say if you arrive by 7 p.m. you can wait in line until you vote. 

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Credit Noah Taborda / KCUR 89.3
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KCUR 89.3
The scene outside a polling place at Trinity Union Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri.

Correction: Monday was used twice in this story; references have been updated to Tuesday.

Jodi Fortino is a news intern at KCUR. Noah Taborda also contributed to this report. 

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