Missouri residents packed the driver's license office near the intersection of Cleaver and Troost Wednesday afternoon to beat the state's voter registration deadline for the November election.
Kyle Duyck moved to Missouri from Oregon two years ago. As someone who has regularly voted in previous years, Duyck said he does not want to miss this year’s midterm elections.
“I think there needs to be checks and balances,” Duyck said. “Keeping a Senate seat so we actually can get more moderate elections and get more moderate bills passed would be very important for me.”
John McReynolds moved within Missouri and wanted to make sure his license reflected his current address to avoid any issues at the polls.
“I don’t think our government is necessarily representing the values of people my age,” he said. “And so I feel like it’s important to have our voice heard and I want a government that more reflects what our generation is about.”
McReynolds said he’s particularly interested in the ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana, and Duyck said he’s paying a close eye to the U.S. Senate race.
Amanda Arany moved to the Kansas City-area two months ago. “There are a lot of things that need to be changed,” she said. “There are a lot of people that need to leave office. And we can’t just do that in a presidential election, so it starts locally.”
At 23 years old, Arany is a millennial. That age group now makes up about 27 percent of the voting-eligible population but has consistently had the lowest voter turnout.
Arany said she hopes that Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court — and the contentious news cycle of sexual assault allegations against him that preceded it — will galvanize more young people like her to show up to the polls in November.
“If the Supreme Court thing isn’t enough to show them that they need to vote, I don’t know what else will,” she said.
The number of registered voters in Jackson County and Kansas City is on track to surpass those registered during the 2016 presidential election.
Tammy Brown, director at the Jackson County Board of Election Commissioners, said about 226,500 people had registered to vote, and she expects to receive several thousand more registration. This could place voter registration in Jackson County above the 230,465 voters registered before the 2016 election.
She added that the elections board has seen many registrations from new voters or people who have not voted in a long time.
“The phone is crazy,” Brown said. “The mail is crazy. So I liken it to a presidential election, not a midterm.”
Lauri Ealom, director of the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners, said the board is predicting turnout in November at 65 to 70 percent, which would surpass the turnout in 2016. She said that while the staff has received a high volume of registrations, it may not mean all of them are from new voters.
“The challenge for us is to determine the differences between people changing addresses and newly registered voters,” she said. “We can’t differentiate between the two.”
The high numbers of registered voters in Kansas City and Jackson County could be attributed to a number of factors, including the variety of issues that will be on the ballot in Missouri next month.
Ealom said the political climate is another influence pushing more people to participate in the midterm elections.
“That’s the topic of conversation everywhere you turn — every television station, the American Music Awards, it’s everywhere,” she said. “So the political climate has definitely made an increase in those people registering or making sure they’re up to date.”
Celisa Calacal is an intern at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at @celisa_mia.