Government & Politics

‘Civic duty’: Voters go to polls in KC election for new mayor, city council

Kansas City voters go to the polls for mayoral election

Kansas City residents voted in the mayoral election between Quinton Lucas and Jolie Justus at the St. Andrews Episcopal Church on Tuesday.
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Kansas City residents voted in the mayoral election between Quinton Lucas and Jolie Justus at the St. Andrews Episcopal Church on Tuesday.

Kansas City voters went to the polls Tuesday to decide on a new mayor and 12 members for the City Council. In addition, voters are being asked to approve a ballot measure to limit property tax abatements for real estate developers to 50 percent.

Voters also will decide whether to retain nine Municipal Court judges.

The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The race for mayor is between fellow one-term council members Jolie Justus and Quinton Lucas. The two advanced from a crowded field of candidates during the primary election in April.

Jutus and Lucas have spend that time telling voters how they would address many of the city’s pressing issues such as crime, affordable housing, urban core revitalization and whether to continue offering tax incentives to developers.

Kansas City election board officials expected turnout to exceed the number of ballots cast eight years ago when Sly James defeated Mike Burke for Kansas City mayor. In 2011, roughly 22 percent of the city’s registered voters cast ballots.

This year that number was expected to reach about 25 percent, said Shawn Kieffer, a Republican Kansas City Board of Elections director.

“The excitement of the campaign, it is a pretty contested and a close race between the two mayoral candidates,” Kieffer said on Monday. “The top of the ticket easily is what brings people out.”

Some voters who turned up Tuesday morning at the polls said they felt it was a civic responsibility to participate in the election.

“It’s our civic duty,” said John McCann, who voted at the Sacred Heart hall at 814 W. 26th Street.

“Voting is a wonderful privilege and it’s one we need to exercise to ensure our country continues to be democratically run by the people.:”

A steady stream of voters made their way to a polling location at 37th and Main streets.

Gary Weaver, 62, said he was thinking of candidates who support reinvestment in Kansas City’s East Side when he came out to vote.

“I want to make sure taxpayer dollars go back to the East Side of Troost,” Weaver said. “The money, the taxes, they’re building up downtown, up north and along Main Street but they ain’t doing nothing for the East Side. They’re neglecting it.”

The tension between the resurgence downtown and the needs of surrounding neighborhoods has been an issue throughout the election.

Jane Banks, 64, said she was concerned about the city’s crumbling infrastructure and tax incentives.

“This is a huge race for mayor with Sly (James) moving out.” Banks said. “I hate to see him go. I hope it’ll be a smooth transition from Sly to the person who goes in next.”

Other voters such as Jan Lea-Thompson, 59, said critical issues that include affordable housing should be among the top priorities for the next mayor and City Council.

“Hands down. In this city people need affordable places to live and that needs to happen,” she said.

Dolline Hylton, 75, cast her vote at the Mohart Multipurpose Center at 32nd Street and Wayne Avenue and said it would unthinkable not to exercise the right to vote.

“If I sit back on my laurels and don’t vote then I don’t have anything to say that I don’t like,” Hylton said.

North of the Missouri River in Clay County, voter turnout is expected to be light at about 13 percent. The county has 34 polling locations for about 86,000 registered Kansas City voters, said Patty Lamb, the Republican elections director.

However, election day turnout is predicted to be higher in Platte County with about 20 percent of the registered 33,000 voters in Kansas City expected to cast ballots.

Kieffer said voters should expect to spend about five minutes casting their ballot. Election officials are using the same polling locations as they did in April. Only a handful of voters had their polling location changed.

Voters are encouraged to go online before heading to the polls to check their voting status and their exact polling locations. Voters can printout a sample ballot and bring it with them to their polling location.

“This is an important election,” Kieffer said. “People don’t realize that when you vote on local issues and on local candidates, they have most effect on their lives.”

Kieffer said election workers should complete counting ballots by 9:30 p.m.

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Glenn E. Rice covers crime, courts and breaking news for The Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 1988. Rice is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the University of Central Missouri.