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Politics, Elections and Government

You Texted Us Questions About Voting In The Kansas City Region, And We Have Answers

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Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Weeks before the election, the unprecedented circumstances of 2020 have left many voters with questions about how best to cast their ballots.

From evaluating judges to mail-in rules to working the polls, KCUR and America Amplified want to make sure listeners are apprised of everything they want to know.

The prospect of voting during a pandemic might be daunting. That’s why KCUR used GroundSource, a texting outreach tool, to solicit your questions and comments about everything from COVID-19 precautions to working at the polls to whether you can sign for a family member with intellectual disabilities.

More than 60 people reached out from both sides of the state line, and there weren’t many common themes — except that almost everyone said they had a plan. They’d either already voted, have or will fill out a mail-in ballot or will vote in person on Nov. 3.

Keep in mind if you plan to vote by mail that the deadline to request a mail-in ballot in Missouri is Wednesday, Oct. 21 and Tuesday, Oct. 27 in Kansas. Also, because there have been an unusually high number of requests for mail-in ballots, election officials say it’s prudent not to wait until the last minute to drop off your ballot or send it in.

Now, let’s get to your questions:

How risky is it to visit a voting place during a global pandemic?

While election authorities in Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri, and Kansas’ Johnson and Wyandotte counties all say they’re expecting high turnout on Nov. 3, the large number of requests for mail-in ballots may mean fewer people take the risk of voting in-person.

Corey Dillon, Democratic director with the Jackson County Election Board, says requests for absentee voters’ mail-in ballots are in the tens of thousands.

“With three weeks left to go, (we’ve processed) more mail-in ballot requests than in all of the last three presidential elections combined,” she said.

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Carlos Moreno
Whether you vote on a paper ballot or touch screen, each voter will get a single use instrument they can take with them. This is one of many COVID-19 safety precautions we're seeing at polls in 2020.

In Missouri, you can cast an absentee ballot if you meet one of seven requirements; no documentation is required but your signature will serve as verification that your statements are true.

“We will take you at your word when you come to vote in-person absentee,” Dillon says.

You do not need a reason to request an advance or absentee ballot in Kansas.

Coronavirus requirements at the polls vary by county, but Missouri and Kansas both received millions of dollars in federal CARES Act funding to provide safety measures at the polls, including masks, sanitizing materials, plexiglass dividers and floor markings.

Here’s what election officials in Kansas and Missouri say to expect when you go to vote in-person:

  • Voting stations will be at least six feet apart and be wiped down between each voter.
  • Voters will receive single-use stylus pens to use on touchscreens or paper ballots.
  • Plexiglass will separate poll workers from voters when they sign in.
  • Curbside voting may be available; contact your local election board for details.
  • The requirements that poll workers wear masks varies by county.
  • Voters are strongly encouraged to wear a mask, but no one can be denied the right to vote.

Unless you’re a lawyer, how do you evaluate judicial candidates?

Kansas has 62 judges on the ballot, and Missouri has 52. Both states have nonpartisan merit systems of appointing and retaining judges, but the courts operate in slightly different ways at different levels.

KCUR reporter Dan Margolies has this guidance for researching Kansas judges up for retention.

“Because the Kansas evaluations are lumped together by court rather than by individual judge,” he said, “evaluations of District Court judges can be found here; evaluations of Court of Appeals judges can be found here; and evaluations of Supreme Court judges can be found here.”

And here is Dan’s very popular voting-for-dummies on judges story.

For a complete performance review of Missouri judges, go here. Similar evaluations of Kansas judges can be found here.

Where can I find my polling place? It was different in August.

Some polling places have been moved or combined to allow for greater social distancing and other COVID-19 safety precautions. Choose your area from the list below to find your polling place:

Kansas City

Jackson County, outside of Kansas City

Clay County

Platte County

Wyandotte County

Johnson County

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Carlos Moreno
You may find your usual polling place has changed. Make sure to check with your election board to find out where you go to vote this November.

I want to be a poll worker. What should I do?

This varies by election board — and hurry! There aren’t many days left before the election.

Kansas City Election Board: Uses between 800 and 1,200 workers on Election Day. Officials say training has started, but if interested, you’re still encouraged to apply. You can earn up to $275 as an election judge and will be paid $25 for each training session.

These are the requirements:

  • must be a registered voter of Kansas City within Jackson County.
  • must indicate your party affiliation.
  • must be able to read, write, and speak English fluently.
  • have access to reliable transportation.
  • ability to work anywhere in the KC metro area.
  • must attend s mandatory training session.
  • fluency with current technology is a plus.

Jackson County Election Board: Election supervisor Carl Falco says people who’ve signed up are dropping out daily, so even if you hear there isn’t a need for workers, go ahead and apply. But expect a long day to earn anywhere from $180 to $200.

“They need to know they’ll be here from about 5 a.m. until probably 9 p.m.,” Falco says, “so when people hear that they’re like ‘Eh, no, that’s OK,” and drop out.”

Falco says there are plenty of Democratic judges at the moment, but they’re short on Republicans.

Wyandotte County: Election Commissioner Bruce Newby says training sessions for poll workers have already started but the office needs more than 400 workers, so there is still room for more.

Everyone is required to attend a training session, and is paid $9.01 an hour both for the training and for their work on election day.

Applicants must be residents of the county, registered voters and able to work at least 14 consecutive hours on Election Day. Apply here.

Johnson County: Is no longer accepting applications for election workers. Since the beginning of the year, more than 3,000 people signed up to be election workers for the first time.

“For comparison’s sake,” said Nathan Carter with the elections office, “our entire workforce for the 2016 election was just over 2,100 election workers.”

My 19-year-old son with intellectual disability/autism would like to vote. Can I fill out the online form for him requesting a mail-in ballot?

Yes. Kansas voters with a disability can have surrogates assist them in voting — either a poll worker, friend, family, caregiver, assisted living provider or staff person.

Here’s the key: The election board must have a signature on record to match the signature on the ballot. If a surrogate is signing the ballot, the voter can provide a mark on the ballot or in advance by filing a signature card which the election board keeps on file.

Wyandotte County Election Supervisor Bruce Newby says there is a place on the back of the Kansas envelope that you mail back where an assistant can sign the name of the voter and their own name as surrogate.

“There is a lot on that envelope, so look carefully for these lines,” Newby says.

Kansas voters with long-term disabilities can file for a permanent advanced voter ballot, which will come automatically before every election.

You can find more information about providing assistance for Kansas voters with disabilities here.

Missouri also has space on the ballot for an individual with a disability to express a desire for a surrogate signature. But Missouri law is less explicit in defining rights for individuals with intellectual vs. physical disabilities. According to a 2018 KCUR investigation, Missouri ranks low in providing voter accessibility to those with intellectual challenges.

The state does allow people to request an automatic mail-in absentee ballot. So if you have a question about the rights of a relative or friend with an intellectual disability, call your local election office.

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