An election seeking specific downtown tax increases to help fund Kansas City’s starter streetcar route will be conducted by a mail-in ballot.
A new streetcar district board headed by Mayor Sly James decided Wednesday that the best way to attract voters who are focused on the streetcar issue will be a mail-in approach, rather than a vote at downtown polling places during the Nov. 6 election.
The streetcar district’s boundaries were approved several weeks ago in a mail-in election that required voters to jump through some hoops. Registered voters living downtown had to request a ballot from the Jackson County court administrator and then mail it back in a notarized envelope during a specified time frame.
Only 474 people sent in ballots, about 13 percent of downtown’s 3,600 active registered voters. The majority of those approved creation of the special streetcar taxing district.
David Johnson, who assisted with the last mail-in election, said the process is legitimate. But he said voters perceived that it was suspect because the process set a high bar for participation.
Mail-in ballot supporters said no one who wanted to vote was excluded, and people who voted were engaged and informed. Putting the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot, they said, would place the questions far down on the presidential election ballot and might not get voters who truly care about the issue.
The Jackson County Circuit Court still must finalize the election schedule, but it probably will have people requesting ballots between Aug. 31 and Oct. 2. Those ballots would then be mailed back between Oct. 30 and Dec. 11.
The ballot will seek voter approval for a 1-cent sales tax increase within the downtown streetcar district’s boundaries. It also will seek approval for a tax increase of 48 cents per $100 of assessed valuation on commercial properties and a tax increase of 70 cents per $100 of assessed valuation on residential properties.