Kansas City mayor turned away from polls trying to vote
Moments after making a plea for people to get out and vote in the Missouri primary Tuesday, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas was turned away from the polls and told he “wasn’t in the system,” the mayor said.
Lucas tried to cast his vote before 7 a.m. at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church at 22nd and Olive streets, where he said he has voted since 2009. Soon after, he posted a message on Twitter saying he was not allowed to cast a ballot because a poll worker could not find his registration.
Election officials later blamed the incident on a mistake by a poll worker, and Lucas returned later in the day and voted. But the mayor said the incident pointed to a larger problem in how elections are run.
“I made a video this morning about the importance of voting and then got turned away because I wasn’t in the system even though I’ve voted there for 11 years, including for myself four times!” Lucas said.
When Lucas tried to vote, a poll worker searched his name using a utility bill he brought but came up empty, as if Lucas weren’t registered.
After waiting a few minutes, Lucas showed his Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners’ ID. But he was told that they still were not finding him.
Later, poll workers offered a provisional ballot to the mayor, who refused, saying he wanted to make sure his vote was registered so that if anyone checked his record it would show he voted. In the November 2018 midterm election, 4,494 individuals cast provisional ballots because they weren’t showing up on the voter roll, and 1,529 ended up being counted.
“If the mayor can get turned away, that would mean any
body can … so it’s something we all need to try to address,” Lucas said.
When Lucas returned to vote, he used his passport as his ID. He declined to say whom he voted for.
“A lot of people won’t come back either because they have to go to work or because it has the opportunity to be a slightly embarrassing experience,” Lucas said.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Republican, said Tuesday afternoon he would have “suspected that was beneath the mayor” to complain about the poll worker. He said the mayor was not “turned away,” but rather that he declined help.
“It just seems wrong to me for the mayor to go after a poll worker,” Ashcroft told The Star. “I understand that this is the season of silly partisan politics, but leave the poll worker out.”
After he voted, Lucas said it was “disappointing (Ashcroft) would say such a thing.”
“Respectfully, the secretary doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Lucas said. “That’s all I have to say. I’ve actually never met him. I’m sure he’s a perfectly nice person who has no idea what my morning was like today.”
Lauri Ealom, the Democratic director of the Kansas City Board of Elections, said the poll worker entered Lucas’ first and last names in the wrong order.
“He put his last name in as his first name and his first name in as his last name,” she said.
Ealom said that no one else had been turned away from Lucas’ polling place and that voting was running smoothly early Tuesday morning.
“That’s the only issue that we’ve had this morning,” Ealom said.
Lucas said he received a phone call about 45 minutes after he left the polling location informing him of the mix-up. He acknowledged that most Kansas Citians wouldn’t receive such a call.
In a follow-up tweet, Lucas clarified the message in his initial post.
“By the way, me writing ‘but that’s okay,’ was me being Midwestern and passive aggressive. It’s really not okay,” he wrote.
Ashcroft confirmed the poll worker’s error, but said Lucas refused help from the polling place’s supervisor, who successfully pulled up his registration. Ashcroft said Lucas could have voted normally.
“I mean, it would have been faster for him to vote than it took him to do his tweet about his problem voting, supposed problem,” Ashcroft said.
Lucas’ spokeswoman Morgan Said said in a statement that was inaccurate. She said no one at the polling location was identified as a supervisor.
The incident should serve as a wake-up call when it comes to our elections, Lucas said.
“A lot of us in this region are used to folks talking about voting irregularities; talking about those sort of issues,” Lucas said. “I think the biggest threat to American elections is that American’s can’t vote too often. Unfortunately that was the situation I ran into this morning.”
Lucas said he hoped to follow up with the Election Board and others to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.
“We need to find a way to make sure it works all the time,” Lucas said.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, center, finally got to vote Tuesday afternoon.