Lewis W. Diuguid

Election turnout to be higher than expected for Jackson County half-cent sales tax issue

Updated: 2013-11-06T00:37:12Z

By Lewis W. Diuguid

The Kansas City Star

Kansas City election officials weren’t expecting much of a turnout for Tuesday’s election.

Who could blame them for thinking few voters would bother to go to the polls when in some areas of Jackson County there will only be one issue on the ballot? It’s Question 1, the half-cent sales tax proposal for medical research.

If approved, the 20-year tax — in Jackson County only — would generate $800 million, or $40 million a year, for translational research at Children’s Mercy Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Television and glossy ads that people have received in the mail have been intense and in many cases misleading. But they have generated a lot of emotional interest in the outcome of Tuesday’s vote than election officials anticipated.

Shawn Kieffer, director of elections with the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners, said more absentee ballots have been received than normal on a one-issue election. He said a total of 1,600 absentee ballots were expected but that many had come in as of Wednesday.

He said he thought about 2,000 total absentee ballots would be cast before Election Day. That bump in numbers prompted election officials to estimate that the turnout overall would be about 10 percent instead of the anticipated 7 to 8 percent in a one-issue election.

Tammy Brown and Robert Nichols, directors of the Jackson County Board of Election Commissioners, said they expected turnout of the 225,000 registered voters outside Kansas City to be 10 to 15 percent. It could be higher in Blue Springs and other jurisdictions where additional issues are on the ballot.

That means about 21,000 people of the election board’s 212,411 registered voters will help decide whether the sales tax passes.

To reach Lewis W. Diuguid, call 816-234-4723 or send email to ldiuguid@kcstar.com.

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