It’s a big ballot: Make a plan

I’ve been out of town a few weeks, partially because I was attending a conference on election reform. We’re definitely gonna talk about that later, but there’s some more pressing business I want to talk about first. Practically the first thing I did when I got home was attend my poll worker election update class, where I learned two important things about this November’s election in KCMO:

  1. There are between 39 and 42 items on the ballot in November, depending on where you live. We’ve got a Senate seat, a House seat, the state Auditor, state Representatives, the County Executive, Jackson County legislators, about eighty million judges, and a veritable buffet table of constitutional amendments, state and local measures, and some of us get a question about our library district. This ballot is a monster. AND THEN:
  2. A lot of that stuff is really important to people. Aside from whatever effect all those candidates might have on your life if elected, this election is going to decide whether or not to raise the minimum wage in Missouri, whether or not (and how) Missouri adopts a medical marijuana program, how much you’ll be taxed for gas, how easy it is to get a bingo game going for money, and all that business about ethics, lobbying, and redistricting that’s packed into Amendment 1. So: money, drugs, ethics, bingo — no matter who you are, you probably care about at least one of those things. And then, there’s this whole thing where maybe the Senate flips to Democratic control, maybe it doesn’t — exciting stuff. What does that mean? Big voter turnout. A little bird told me that the election board is expecting 70% voter turnout. That’s A LOT. For context, back when we had the Presidential election in 2016 (you probably remember it, it was kind of a big deal), KCMO turnout was just under 58%. In November 2014, the last midterm election, KCMO posted about 25% turnout.

So, kids. Big ballot + big turnout. That’s going to add up to long lines at the polls. Let’s be smart, and be prepared. We here at the Cow have some recommendations on how to make this as easy as possible:

  1. Vote absentee if you can. Unlike our neighbor to the west, Missouri doesn’t really go in for early voting, and we’re fairly restrictive about who can vote absentee. But if you can manage to fit yourself into one of those qualifying groups, it might be worth your trouble to request an absentee ballot.
  2. If you can’t vote absentee (most of us can’t), know what you’re voting on when you get to your polling place on election day. You can get a sample ballot from the election board, and read through everything that’s up for a vote. Take some time, think this one through before you show up to the polls. Maybe go ahead and mark your choices on your sample ballot, and take it with you. Or you can use a site like BallotReady to review the ballot and print or email your picks. Then you’re not meeting anything on the ballot for the first time when you go to vote – you’ve already spent the time to think it over, and it’s gonna get you out of the poll much faster.
  3. Know where you’re going. Before you head out, find your polling place. Make sure it’s the place you think it is.
  4. Know your rights as a voter. Here are two that are especially relevant to making sure you actually get to cast a vote:
    • Polls open at 6 a.m., and close at 7 p.m. on election day. If you are in line at 7 p.m., you get to vote. Don’t go home just because the polling day is over.
    • If you work in Missouri, and you are scheduled to work on election day in such a way that your schedule doesn’t give you three consecutive hours off while the polls are open, you have the right to take up to three hours off during the day to vote. The catch is that you have to request the time off in advance, however your employer usually wants requests made, and your employer can specify which three hours you can have off. This is even supposed to be paid time off, provided that you actually use it to vote.

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be talking about some of the issues on the ballot, some of the positions up for grabs and what they do, and other useful information about your rights as a voter and what to do if somebody doesn’t seem to want to let you use them. There’s a lot going on, but hang on, folks, we’re gonna get through this. Until next time, happy election season.

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