Vote tomorrow!

All right, folks – last words from us about the November 6 elections. I know you’re busy, so I’ll be brief.

  • Polls are open in Kansas from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In Missouri, they’re open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • If you’re still holding on to a Kansas early voting ballot for some reason, walk it into your assigned polling place.
  • Bring appropriate ID (Kansas/Missouri), your notes or marked sample ballot (make yourself a cheat sheet with BallotReady if you haven’t already done it – it’ll save you some grief at the polls while you try to remember what you wanted), and your patience.
  • If you have trouble at the polls, ask a poll worker for help! Most of us actually want to help you vote, that’s what we’re there for.
  • Ask for a provisional ballot if you need one.
  • If you’re harassed or intimidated at the polls, or if you think you’ve been wrongly refused your right to vote, call the ACLU’s election protection number. That’s 1-866-OUR-VOTE for help in English, or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA for help in Spanish. You can also file a complaint with your election board and your Secretary of State’s office.
  • Use a paper ballot if you can. If you have to use a touchscreen voting machine, make sure you review your choices. Machines vary by election authority, but there should be at least one opportunity for you to review and confirm your votes before the machine prints your ballot or records your votes. If something looks wrong, alert a poll worker.
  • If you are voting with a paper ballot, make sure to look at both sides of the ballot. If you’re using a machine, watch for arrows or other indicators at the bottom of each screen that mean that there’s more to the question, or candidates you haven’t seen yet.
  • If you mess up on a paper ballot, you can hand it back to the poll workers you got it from and ask them to spoil it and give you a new one.
  • Remember, if you’re in line when the polling place closes, you have the right to vote. Don’t leave!
  • Jackson County, MO voters: if you’re befuddled by the county charter questions (Questions 1-7), don’t stress too much about it. There’s already a charter change commission scheduled to convene in 2019. If you want to dig into the particulars of these issues, you can check out the full text of the proposed changes. If you’d rather get your guidance from the local paper of record, the Star has a run-down of recommendations.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you at the polls!

Resource round-up: Getting to the polls

If lack of transportation is stopping you from voting, lots of folks want to help. Here’s a quick list of options for grabbing a free or cheap ride to the polls:

Thanks for reading! I’ll keep updating this list as I become aware of more resources.

And then, there’s Kansas

Last week, we talked about how Missouri’s photo ID law doesn’t actually require you to show photo ID to vote. Kansas, though, is another story.

Unless you can demonstrate that you are a member of a religion that prohibits you from having your photo taken, you’ll need a non-expired photo ID to vote in Kansas. The list of acceptable photo IDs is a bit more robust than Missouri’s, though. You can vote with:

  • A driver’s license or ID issued by Kansas or by another state
  • A concealed carry of handgun license
  • A United States passport
  • An employee badge or identification document issued by a municipal, county, state, or federal government office
  • A military ID
  • A student identification card issued by a Kansas college or other post-high school institution
  • A public assistance ID
  • An identification card issued by an Indian tribe

The state will also issue you an ID for free, if you need one to vote. You will still need to bring your social security card and your birth certificate, or otherwise prove your identity and citizenship. But they’ll give you the ID for free, and are allegedly letting folks who need ID to vote get to the head of the line. It’s not nothing, and maybe it will help some folks get their votes in.

How should I know which judges should keep their seats?

I’m gonna level with you, herd. (Can I call you “herd”? Is that okay?)

I consider myself to be a fairly informed voter. I mean, I vote every election, I diligently preview my ballot and research candidates and issues, I work at the polls. Heck, I even write a blog about voting these days. (Thanks for reading, by the way.)

But there is still a part of the ballot that I get hung up on every time:

“Shall Judge So-and-So of the Such-and-Such court be retained in office? Yes/No” 

Well, how should I know? Judges don’t usually campaign. The media doesn’t cover them unless they’re ruling on something really dramatic. Every now and again, some judge does something that bothers a lot of people, and then that gets covered, but that’s about it. Unless you spend a lot of time in court, and happily, I don’t spend a lot of time in court, you probably have no idea who most of these people are, or what they think, or whether they’re any good at their job or not. How do I know if they should be retained in office?

It turns out that lots of people have this question. The short answer usually seems to be “find someone who does spend a lot of time in courts, and ask them”. Steve Kraske had a recent piece on KCUR on the topic, and his guest recommended that people “talk to their attorney friends”. If you’ve got some friends who happen to be attorneys (or court reporters, or probation officers, or police officers, or maybe even just extremely litigious people), that’s probably going to work out. But say you don’t. You’ve still got some resources.

  • The Missouri Bar Association posts reviews of judges at YourMissouriJudges.org. These reviews are done anonymously by lawyers who argued cases in front of the judge, or who read legal opinions written by the judge. If the judge presides over a court where there is also a jury, jury members also review the judge. Reviews are based on criteria like “Did the judge appear to be free from bias?” or “The judge applied rules of evidence relevant to the case.” Most of the time, most reviewers seem to be fine with recommending keeping the judge in office, but you can read reviews for all the judges up for election in your area, and see if you find anything that bothers you about a particular judge.
  • If you are in JoCo Kansas, the Johnson County Bar Association does a similar survey, except that theirs is only addressed to lawyers. They rate judges on criteria like “Fairness and Impartiality”, “Judicial Temperament”, and “Knowledge of Law”. Their website reports overall recommendations, but you can also get the full survey results. 
  • If you’re in Wyandotte County, your judges get and keep their seats a bit differently. Your county judges are elected — they campaign like other elected officials, and you can get some information about them from our good friends at BallotPedia. You also get to vote whether or not to retain judges for the Kansas Court of Appeals. Nobody seems to do performance reviews for them, alas.

Normally, I’m not all that into the idea of relying on the opinions of other people to make my voting decisions. Here, though, it might be the best option. If you want more information, most of the courts also post online bios of currently sitting judges. This can tell you things like how long a particular judge has held the office, who appointed them, what their educational background is, what groups they’re affiliated with, and so on. Some also include key or recent opinions written by the judge, if you really want to dig into things. Here’s a quick list of some bios for sitting judges:

Kansas

Missouri

So there you are, no lawyer friends required. Happy voting!

What is a provisional ballot, anyway?

George Takei tweet about provisional ballots

I don’t know what your Facebook and Twitter feeds have looked like for the past couple of days, but this tweet from George Takei has been all over mine. If you’re looking at this on a tiny screen or can’t read the print, it says “If you are turned away at the polls because your name is not on the register, don’t walk away. Say this: I REQUEST A PROVISIONAL BALLOT AS REQUIRED BY LAW. Don’t let them steal your vote.”

So you might be wondering, “What is a provisional ballot? Do I need one? Is this good advice?”. Well, wonder no more, my friends. Let’s talk about it.

What is a provisional ballot? It’s a ballot that somebody needs more information about in order to decide whether or not it ought to count. Provisional ballots are generally held aside from the general stack of completed ballots, and some election official has to come in and review them later.

You might vote on a provisional ballot if the poll workers can’t find you in the voter rolls. Or, if you live in a state (like KS and MO) where the law specifies what kind of ID you have to have in order to vote, and you don’t have an ID with you that’s on that list. Or, if you are registered to vote, but you’re supposed to vote in some polling place other than the one you’re at. Or, in Kansas, if the address on your ID doesn’t match the address in the registration system. Or, if there’s some possibility that you might have already voted advance or absentee and might be trying to vote again. Basically, if there’s any question about whether or not you’re really eligible to cast this particular vote, you can request or be given a provisional ballot.

Is that a good idea? Well, usually. It’s certainly better than just giving up and leaving the polls. I can’t tell you whether any particular provisional vote will actually be counted or not. That’s always going to be up to the folks running the election. But here are some things to think about:

  • If the reason you are voting provisionally is that the poll workers can’t find your registration, it’s possible that they’re not able to see the whole list of registered voters for some reason, and somebody with better data access at the election board or office will be able to validate your vote.
  • Even if you really have been removed from the rolls for some reason, properly or improperly (all states purge voters if the voter is inactive for a long enough period of time, and lots of states have opted to purge voters for other reasons this year), casting a provisional ballot can’t hurt. Your ballot creates a record. That record may become important if there is a legal challenge to the election process or results.
  • If the reason you are voting provisionally is that there’s some issue with your ID, and you have a valid form of identification somewhere else, what happens next depends on your state. In Missouri, you can come back to the poll with a valid ID and pull your ballot out of provisional status right there. In Kansas, you will need to contact the election office after the polls close. Ask a poll worker how and when to do that – it varies by county.
  • But: If the reason that you are voting provisionally is that you are in the wrong polling place, and you can get to the right polling place before the polls close – maybe don’t bother with the provisional vote and just go over to the other poll. That way you can be sure your vote will be counted. This varies a little by state. In Kansas, if you have moved in the 30 days before the election, you can still vote at your old polling place. Missouri wants you to change your address with the poll worker at your old polling place, and then go to the new one.

Okay, so I cast a provisional ballot – now what? In both Missouri and Kansas, you should get some sort of ballot stub or receipt for your provisional ballot. Hold on to that thing. In Kansas, you should also get instructions on how to follow up with the election office. If the poll worker helping you with your ballot doesn’t volunteer that information – ask them! In Missouri, once you’ve cast the provisional ballot, there’s not much you can do to change its fate immediately (unless you needed a valid ID and went back to the polls with one). You can, however, find out what happened to your ballot by calling the Secretary of State’s office at 866-868-3245, at least 14 days after the election.

Kansas Advance Voting Starts Tomorrow

As a Missourian, if there’s anything I’m willing to admit to being envious of Kansas about, it’s the advance voting system. Seriously, Missouri, we should get us one of those. Let’s talk. But that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is that if you are fortunate enough to be a Kansas voter, you can vote early by mail starting tomorrow, or in person starting October 22 or 23, depending on your county.

To vote by mail, you have to have a ballot. To get a ballot, you have to ask your county election office for one. (Here’s a handy link to the application for Johnson and Wyandotte county voters.) Fill that bad boy out, print it, and mail it in to the election office. They’ll mail you a ballot. Mark your ballot, seal it up, make sure you fill out all the important stuff on the outside of your ballot envelope, and mail it back before election day. No standing in lines on election day, very easy, very nice. Folks with disabilities or chronic illness who are regularly going to be prevented from going to the polls by their health can apply to always get a ballot mailed to them without needing to request one every time. Everybody else has to request a ballot for each election they want to vote by mail.

If you prefer to vote in person, but still want to get it out of the way before election day, you can do that starting next week. Johnson County has six early voting sites – check the location and hours before you go. Wyandotte County hasn’t posted their locations or schedules yet, but I’ll keep looking and share them with you when I find them. If you’re in another county, check your county’s election office website for details.

Happy voting, Kansan friends!