Long lines, many glitches at area polls

For Kansas City area voters, it was a typical Election Day in a presidential year. Patience was much advised.

“We were just hammered” was how Johnson County election commissioner Brian Newby described the crush at many polling places under his supervision. “Tons of people.”

It didn’t matter if you were voting on the Missouri side or in Kansas suburbs, where as much as 45 percent of the electorate was expected to cast ballots before Tuesday. The lines were long at some polling places, longer at others.

The Missouri secretary of state’s office predicted turnout would be 72 percent, up from 69 percent four years ago. Kansas predicted 1.2 million people would vote, as in 2008, which was a 72 percent turnout then.

Still, some voters escaped lines — how long it took to cast a ballot depended on where you voted and the time of day. For instance, there was no waiting at the Lenexa Community Center at 7:30 a.m. However, a half hour later, and across town, Kansas City resident James Mercer was just beginning his one-and-a-half-hour wait to cast his ballot at Central Community Christian Church, 5144 Oak St.

“It was a mess,” he said of the scene.

As in any presidential election, voters complained of long waits and the occasional problem — voting machine malfunctions, ballots that wouldn’t “authenticate.” But no major breakdowns in voting were reported as area voters expressed their preferences for who they wanted to serve as their commander in chief, member of Congress and members of their state legislature.

There were plenty of glitches, though.

“Some easily remedied,” Wyandotte County election commissioner Bruce Newby said in an email, “some impossible to remedy.”

Despite all the planning that goes into preparing for the vote, he said, “there will always be a few things that do not happen quite like we expect, or issues that are raised which are unique to the dynamic of a presidential election or just this election.”

Some Kansas poll workers struggled to quickly verify voters’ identities as they met the requirement of the state’s new voter ID law, Brian Newby said.

At some Kansas City polling places, election workers drew complaints from the Freedom Inc. political club for forbidding voters to consult Freedom’s voter guides while marking their ballots.

“That’s a violation of people’s constitutional rights,” Freedom’s legal counsel, Clinton Adams, told The Star.

The Kansas City election board agreed and corrected the problem by midday, co-director Shelly McThomas said.

“You can bring in any literature that will assist you with voting,” she said.

Freedom also complained of a lack of voting machines in some precincts, but McThomas said each polling place had at least one touch-screen machine and one to record votes on paper ballots.