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For Black And Latino Voters In Kansas City, Turning Out On Election Day Is About Being Heard

Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City resident Renee Boyer voted for Joe Biden but credits President Donald Trump for opening up dialogues about civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movement by espousing what many considered support for white supremacists.

Despite social unrest, a deadly pandemic and a divided country, Black and Latino voters in Kansas City are motivated to vote and want a return to normalcy.

Renee Boyer is not a first time voter by any means, but this year feels different.

"I've been voting forever," she said after casting her ballot today at Kansas City's Southeast Community Center.

The educator has encouraged everyone she can to vote, going so far as to drive her son to his polling place after she performed her civic duty.

"It's like if I have to bring you here, bring you food, you're going to stand in this line, you're going to vote," she said.

She's determined despite, or maybe because of, a deadly pandemic that has killed more than 230,000 Americans, disproportionately affecting marginalized people, and a president who has sown doubt about whether he will accept election results that don't favor him.

It's a determination shared by many voters across the city, who turned out on Election Day to make their voices heard.

"More people are motivated because we're not used to this (president's) rhetoric," she said, "because more people are waking up to, like, 'Are we going to have a job? I can't even go to work.'"

Boyer voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, not because of their party affiliation, but because she thinks they will bring back a sense of normalcy.

"He sees what we see," she said about the Democratic presidential candidate. "And, it's not about his color, it's not about politics to me, it's about I'm hoping that he'll balance everything out."

Irene Ruiz, 40, cast her vote today at Gladstone Elementary School in Northeast Kansas City. She, too, has been encouraging others to vote and is concerned about efforts to dissuade voters from showing up at the polls.

"We sometimes are intimidated by people, you know, or institutions not to come and vote, but every vote counts," she said.

Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
Irene Ruiz cast her ballot at Gladstone Elementary School. She was worried at first about voting in-person during a pandemic, but said after the fact that the process felt safe.

Ruiz, who voted for Biden, said motivation to vote is high among her friends and family — her daughters made it to the polls bright and early, too.

"We're from a Hispanic family so it's important to put the right person in the office," she said.

Concerns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic are central to Ruiz's decision, but she felt safe casting her vote.

"If we want to have a better America, then we got to do it," she said.

First time voter Michael Le, 20, said he was going to vote no matter what.

Growing up, Le didn't feel like he had the power to cause change but now sees voting as a way to do just that. He said voting at Gladstone Elementary felt safe, and it was quick and easy.

"I'm actually a first generation Asian American, so this is a big deal for me," he said.

At Paseo Academy, 31-year-old Ynessa Goldsby showed up before the sun rose to vote for change. She was among about 75 people lined up minutes after the polls opened at 6 a.m.

"You can't change anything if you don't get up and come out and vote yourself," Goldsby said.

Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
The line of voters at Paseo Academy in Kansas City, Missouri, was about 100 people long when polls opened, but advanced quickly.

Mitchell Williams also arrived Paseo Academy to vote as the sun rose, hoping to be the first in, but the line was already stretched around the parking lot. It took him about 45 minutes to cast his ballot for Joe Biden, and the wait didn't bother him.

His experience mirrors what poll workers saw at several locations east of Troost Avenue — long lines that dwindled about 90 minutes after polls opened, with minimal waiting times after that.

"This country seems like it's being really polarized," Williams said. "I felt that my vote could possibly make a difference in uniting this country again."

As culture editor, I oversee KCUR’s coverage of race, culture, the arts, food and sports. I work with reporters to make sure our stories reflect the fullest view of the place we call home, so listeners and readers feel primed to explore the places, projects and people who make up a vibrant Kansas City. Email me at luke@kcur.org.
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