Long lines that began forming before Missouri polling places opened early Tuesday were continuing throughout the day as voters faced a long ballot this year.
As of shortly before 4 p.m. the biggest problem appeared to be at Northland Cathedral Church in Kansas City, North, in Clay County, where there was a 3 to 3 1/2 hour wait for voters representing five of the county’s largest precincts. The 17th precinct has the largest population at 4,000 and voters were directed to the smallest room with five booths available. By 3 p.m., lines were stretched around three sides of Northland Cathedral and the long wait time had not abated. One election volunteer said the turnout was higher than she had seen it there in 20 years.
Patty Evans, democractic director for the Clay County Election Board, attributed the long lines to the volume of people voting Tuesday and the length of the ballot. She noted that typically 12-15 percent of eligible voters turn up for the polls in an off-year election. Turn-out was expected to surpass 70 percent on Tuesday, she said.
“When you go from 12 percent of the people voting to 70 percent, and with an extra long ballot, it’s going to take longer,” Evans said.
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Speaking from her office at the election board headquarters in Liberty while her desk phone rang constantly, Evans said the church was staffed with six people while other polling locations tend to have three or four.
She said additional staffers, including Republican director Patty Lamb, were sent to Northland Cathedral once reports of long waits emerged.
"There are lots of cities where people are waiting longer," Evans said. "We are not doing this on purpose."
Voters experienced long lines across the metropolitan area Tuesday.
Mid-morning, usually a slower time for voting, lines snaked down the street at Bishop Spencer Place, 4301 Madison Ave. in Kansas City, where the wait was almost an hour.
At Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral on 13th Street, voters were told the wait was an hour and a half at 11:30 a.m. In North Kansas City a voter reported a 1 1/2 -hour wait just after noon.
Before the polls opened, voters were lined up. At St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, voters started lining up before 5:30 a.m. More than 70 voters were in line by 6 a.m. at the church at 56th and the Paseo. The line stretched from the doors on Paseo around the corner and up 56th Street.
Helen Brown brought a folding chair with her to the polls at St. James.
“I figured it would be a long line,” Brown said. “I thought it would be better if I brought a chair. I can’t stand very long.”
Brown waited in line with the other voters and moved her chair along as the line inched forward.
“It’s kind of exciting to see which way we’ll win, but I’m for unity,” Brown said. “Our state is in a bad way right now but things will be brighter. That’s what I’m counting on — unity and the person who can do the best job.”
Polling places in Missouri opened at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. But as long as you’re in line by then, you’ll still be able to vote.
That same rule applies in Kansas, though the polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Johnson County and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Wyandotte County.
Missouri has a slew of big offices on the ballot this year, including races for governor and U.S. senator. Down ballot, Missouri voters will pick the state’s next attorney general, secretary of state and lieutenant governor.
They’ll also select the folks who will head to Jefferson City in 2017 for the next session of the Missouri General Assembly.
Turnout appeared to be high throughout the metro. In Kansas, turnout was predicted to be 70 percent of registered voters — and many had already voted. In Johnson County, more than 43 percent of all registered voters —177,178 in all — had cast their ballots before Election Day. In Wyandotte, the advanced vote was 30 percent.
The early voting made for easy voting with little to no waiting in Johnson and Wyandotte counties.
Missouri has no early voting. A proposal backed by Democrats in 2014 fell short of the required signatures to get on the ballot. The GOP passed its own pared-down version but it was defeated by voters. There was talk in Jefferson City earlier this year that Democrats were pushing to include early voting in a voter ID bill in return for ending a filibuster on the issue. But county clerks, who have historically opposed early voting in Missouri, apparently spoke out and the idea was scuttled.
The all-in Election Day in Missouri meant for long waits to vote. A line outside Grandview Middle School stretched and snaked along the sidewalk near the school’s entrance. Many voters came prepared for the long wait, clutching cups of coffee and their hand held electronic devices.
The long lines were expected, said Shawn Kieffer, director of elections for the Kansas City Board of Elections Commissioners, especially because the ballot is so long in Kansas City.
The best thing people can do is prepare to vote by looking over a sample ballot, which can be found by pressing here.
“If you’re coming in cold, it will take you 30 minutes to vote,” Kieffer said.
If you know your selections and filled out a sample ballot, you can transfer your choices onto the ballot.
“You’ll get in and out quicker,” he said.
Using a paper ballot will also get you in and out faster too. Polls have added extra privacy booths to accommodate the voters using the paper ballots.
Voters should still expect to take about 15 to 30 minutes to fill out their ballots.
There were no unusual problems Tuesday morning. He said a couple of machines weren’t working, but technicians were sent and got them up and running.
Before the sun was up, Elsa Brundige, 18, of Kansas City was already waiting in a line stretching 100 deep in order to vote in her first presidential election.
“Tried to avoid the line,” said Brundige who stood in line with her mom, Anne Brundige in Kansas City, at the polling place at Country Club United Methodist Church, 57th Street and Wornall Road.
“I kind of expected,” Elsa Brundige said of the turnout for what has come to rank as one of the most bitter presidential races in modern history.
Jim Duff, 56, of Kansas City was ahead of her in a line that moved at a steady pace, but which stretched far west down the sidewalk along the north side of 57th.
“I never stood in a line this long,” Duff said. He saw it “in a positive way.”
“Because it’s a civic duty,” he said.
At the IBEW Local Union No. 53 on Admiral Boulevard, a line of more than 50 people formed in the parking lot after 6 a.m.
“I’ve never waited in a line before,” a man said incredulously as he took stock of the people. “In St. Louis, you’re in and you’re out.”
The line moved consistently. There appeared to be a few people who had registered close to the deadline and weren’t showing up on polling location list. An election worker had to confirm those voter IDs with the Board of Elections.
Esther Boyd of Kansas City showed up to vote shortly before 8 a.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 40th and Main streets.
“I’m glad this is over,” she said of the election season.
She expected long lines.
“I was here for the first Obama election and the lines were longer,” she said.
Although the lines were long, she was not discouraged.
“It’s a good day,” she said, “and the weather is nice. At least it’s not raining.”
At several polls, people with name tags identifying themselves as vote protectors milled about observing the election process, looking for any anomalies. They said that at the time, all they were seeing were long lines.
Voters in Johnson County had a much easier time, thanks to thousands of voters taking advantage of two weeks of early voting. At 95th Street and Mission Road in Overland Park, a few people were waiting in line as the polls opened at 6 a.m. but no lines after that this morning. Supervising Judge Jan Pickler saw a steady trickle of voters but no problems. The site has five machines; sometimes they were all full, other times just one was in use.
The atmosphere at Central Church of the Nazarene in Lenexa was serene. Twenty voters were waiting when polls opened but by almost noon, poll workers by far outnumbered voters. As throughout Johnson County, early voting was probably the reason. In fact half the voters in this precinct had voted before Election Day.
In Kansas, every seat in the Legislature is on the ballot.
Republican Jerry Moran’s re-election bid for the U.S. Senate is the only major statewide race.
But five of the state’s seven Supreme Court justices are up for a yes-or-no retention vote. That’s typically a low-key matter, but groups have emerged to campaign against four of the justices, citing anger over the court’s recent decisions. Supporters of the judges have answered by bringing in former state leaders to campaign for each of the justices.
In the 3rd Congressional District in Kansas, incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder is facing a stiff challenge from Democrat Jay Sidie.
Kansas had strong early voting returns during the roughly two weeks it offered the option. But the Kansas secretary of state’s office said it’s still expecting a busy turnout across the state.
Bryan Caskey, state director of elections, said that although the presidential election is always a draw, he cited the Supreme Court retention vote and legislative races as reasons polls will likely be busy.
“I’m anticipating a good day,” he said.
Bob Cronkleton, Hunter Woodall, Eric Adler and Glenn E. Rice contributed to this report.