Voters headed to the polls Tuesday morning, as Election Day started with high voter turnout expected in Kansas and Missouri.
Many are facing problems at polling locations across the Kansas City area. Among those problems are broken voting machines, confusion over voter ID law, and at least one polling location using the wrong ballots.
Such problems can exacerbate another challenge voters are facing: long lines.
With closely watched elections happening on both sides of the state line, many polling locations have stacked up long lines of voters, with some reporting waits of more than an hour.
At the Kansas City Election Board, officials were expecting turnout of about 55 percent, close to the 58 percent turnout in the 2016 presidential election and much higher than the 38 percent turnout in the 2014 mid-term election.
Polls in Kansas are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In Missouri, polls are open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Update 1 p.m.: A ballot-counting machine at a polling location inside the Centerview building near Raymore City Hall malfunctioned Tuesday, temporarily forcing voters to place their ballots in a cardboard box.
The malfunctioning machine was replaced about 11:30 a.m., according to officials with the Cass County Board of Election.
It is not immediately known what caused the machine to malfunction, officials said. They also do not know how many ballots had been cast before the problem occurred.
A nonpartisan team of election workers will manually insert the ballots that were placed in the cardboard box.
As a result of a heavy voter turnout, additional ballot boxes were delivered to other polling locations, election officials said.
The office of Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft acknowledged the problems in a message posted to Twitter.
“Several polling places are reporting problems with machines counting ballots.,” the message said. “Local election officials are aware and working to fix. Your vote will be counted! Please follow poll workers’ instructions and know your vote is secure!”
Update noon: For Mindy Nickles of Overland Park, this was the first time voting since her polling location changed. When she showed up at 6:55 a.m. at Life Church at 9800 W. 135th St., there were about 40 people ahead of her, all standing outside.
When polls opened at 7 a.m., people were let inside, but the line didn’t move. About 10 minutes later, poll workers announced they were having issues checking people in.
The iPads poll workers were using wrongly showed that voters were at an incorrect polling location.
Shortly thereafter, one of the three iPads began working, but people had to be checked in one at a time. Nickles said in an email that she was able to get her ballot at 7:45 a.m., about an hour after she arrived.
“At the time I left, there was still only one check-in iPad available,” Nickles said. “The line was moving very slowly.”
The process hasn’t soured her desire to vote.
“But between the controversy over the primary election and problems today, I am leery of the process and skeptical that votes are counted properly,” she said. “I’m not opposed to going back to paper ballots. Poll workers seemed at a loss on how to deal with technological issues.”
Nathan Carter, spokesman for the Johnson County Election Office, said the Life Church problem was the most significant experienced in the county so far on Election Day. He said two of the three electronic poll books didn’t work at the start of the day but were fixed within about an hour. He said the line at the church had dwindled to just a few people waiting.
Carter said that, in the event the electronic voting machines don’t work, the county has the ability to provide voters with paper ballots.
Update 11:30 a.m.: Long lines have been reported at Northland Cathedral at 101 N.W. 99th St., with waits of up to two hours.
That polling location has had problems in the past. In the 2016 presidential election, voters reported waits of 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
In response, the Clay County Board of Election Commissioners opened a vote center at 2601 N.E. Kendallwood Parkway, Suite 103, in Gladstone, where any registered Clay County voter can vote until 7 p.m.
Poll workers were passing out fliers Tuesday directing voters to that location if they didn’t want to wait in line.
Update 11 a.m.: Two polling locations in Platte County lost power shortly after 9 a.m. after a contract crew for Kansas City Power & Light damaged a cable. The damage meant about 85 customers were without power, according to Kaley Bohlen, with KCP&L.
The outage lasted until about 10:15 at a Clubhouse Drive voting site in Parkville and until 10:40 a.m. at the Coves North Clubhouse voting location on Overland Drive in Kansas City, North.
Casey Beane said the power was out when he arrived to vote at the Coves Clubhouse.
Voters were told to leave their paper ballots behind and election workers would scan ballots when electricity was restored, he said.
“It clearly made a lot of people uncomfortable,” Beane said.
He said his wife was holding on to their ballots while she waited for electricity to return.
“It may be totally innocent, but in this day and age, things like that pique your interest,” Beane said.
Wendy Flanigan, Platte County Board of Elections director, said voters could continue voting while power remained out and ballots would be submitted to an emergency compartment.
“A bipartisan team will feed those into the reader when the electricity comes back,” she said.
Lona Efaw said she and her husband waited from 9 a.m. until 10:40 a.m. to make sure their ballot was counted.
“I was not going to put my ballot in a cardboard box,” she said.
Update 10:15 a.m.: John Proctor of Excelsior Springs was at the polling location at Flack Memorial Church, 1300 Tracy Avenue shortly after polls opened at 6 a.m., when a voting machine broke down.
He said poll workers had voters put their ballots in an “emergency chute” on the back of the machine.
When a poll worker joked that the chute actually went to a paper shredder, Proctors did not appreciate the humor, he said.
“I’m all for jokes. Just not about my ballot,” he said.
Patty Lamb, Republican director of the Clay County Board of Election Commissioners, said the poll worker’s comment was not appropriate and that she would address the matter with the workers at the location.
She said there’s a procedure for when the voting machine breaks down. There’s an emergency bin on the back of the machine that poll workers open and put ballots in to keep the line of voters from backing up. Once a technician has fixed the problem, ballots are run through the machine.
With the high volume of voter turnout, Lamb said the election process was running relatively smoothly. She said there has been an issue with some voter machines not working properly but they have addressed the issue and everything was fixed.
Update 10 a.m.: Election monitors have received numerous reports from across Missouri, and in the Kansas City area, about poll workers wrongly telling voters they need to present photo ID.
Voters in Missouri do not need to present a photo ID. They can present another form of ID, such as a voter registration card.
Update: 9:45 a.m.: At the polling location at Lee’s Summit City Hall, the single machine used to collect ballots stopped functioning about 7:30 a.m.
A line backed up out the door.
“With that large of a crowd, they should have had a backup” machine, Brigitte Thompson said.
“That’s what we’re all baffled about.”
Thompson was able to vote before the machine broke down, she said, but her daughter wasn’t, after waiting in line for more than an hour.
She said election workers collected the ballots in a pile. Thompson said she wondered what would happen to those ballots.
“People are furious,” she said. “And this is not a town that’s going to let that go.”
Corey Dillon, Democratic director for the Jackson County Election Board, said that the ballot counter did go down at that location and had to be replaced. It was down for about 20 minutes before a different machine was brought in, and the new one is up and running.
While the machine was down, election judges kept track of the ballots and placed them in a bypass envelop. Either election judges will run the ballots through the machine at the end of voting tonight or that will be done at election offices, Dillon said.
Overall, Jackson County voters were seeing long lines in some places, but they were getting through quickly. Dillon described it as an ordinary election with some equipment issues and questions concerning voter registration.
Update 8:40 a.m.: At the polling location at the Don Bosco Senior Center, 580 Campbell St., several voters found machines wouldn’t accept their ballots, according to Kevin Worley of Kansas City.
Some of the ballots in the precinct had the wrong precinct number on them, he said. The problem ballots that already had been filled out were collected in a folder to be dealt with at the main office downtown, Worely understood.
Shawn Kieffer, a director with the Kansas City Election Board, said a technician was sent to the polling location to check out the problem, but he has not heard back about what the problem was.
If the ballots were marked for the wrong precinct, the votes would be moved over to a correct ballot, Kieffer said.
Update 8:30 a.m.: A Kansas City Election Board official said poll workers were locked out of a polling location Tuesday morning, delaying the opening of polls at that location for about 30 to 40 minutes.
“Things are extremely busy with long lines everywhere,” said Shawn Kieffer, a director of the Kansas City Election Board. “We are encouraging voters to get online and download the copy of the ballot so they can prepare and know exactly how they are going to vote before coming to the polls.”
Poll workers are reporting that first-time voters who have not read anything on the ballot are taking up to 30 minutes to cast their votes.
“It’s extremely long — 19 inches front and back,” Kieffer said.
Update 8 a.m.: When poll workers at Central Presbyterian Church first scanned the ID for William Hargrave of Kansas City, he was listed as “ineligible.” A check of the voter rolls showed he was active and his personal information was listed correctly.
“I did get a ballot,” Hargrave said. He estimated that he spent just under an hour waiting in line to vote and about 15 minutes filling out the ballot.
When he called the Kansas City Election Board after voting, he found he had been marked inactive or deleted because he didn’t respond to a letter that had been sent. He was told that was an error and that he shouldn’t have been disqualified to vote after just one letter.
Shawn Kieffer, director of the Kansas City Election Board, said he didn’t know the specifics involving Hargrave’s voting status.
However, he said that the Election Board sends out mail. If the mail is returned, election officials send out another letter that can be forwarded. That mailing asks the voter to update or confirm the address. If it comes back unanswered, the voter’s status is changed to inactive.
If the person doesn’t vote in two federal election cycles, the voter is purged from the voter rolls. Kieffer said poll workers are encountering an occasional voter whose status is labeled inactive.
Because there’s a lot of issues on Tuesday’s ballots, Kieffer said they are “expecting a bunch” of such voters because there are so many issues on the ballot. He said today’s election is drawing people to the polls who don’t vote regularly.
If that happens, people are urged to contact the election board and check to see if they are listed as inactive. If so, their status will be changed and they will be given a ballot. If they have been purged from the rolls, the person has to re-register and is not allowed to vote in this election.
You can check your voting status at www.kceb.org.
Update 7:20 a.m.: Long lines greeted voters at Central Presbyterian Church at Armour Boulevard and Campbell Street in Kansas City’s Midtown area. The line was not snaking outside, but the lobby was packed with voters.
One voter who arrived when polls opened at 6 a.m. waited in line for nearly an hour before receiving a ballot.
“The line was like Disneyland in there at 6 a.m.,” said Dan Magrone of Kansas City. “I just wanted to be sure my voice was heard because we need changes. Oh boy do we ever.”
The church also has a food pantry and for a while Tuesday, a sign on the door caused confusion because it said only people from two ZIP codes were eligible. The sign was removed after voters complained that some people were leaving because they thought it applied to polling location.
On Monday, many voters waited in line at an election office in Olathe that was the last Johnson County location still accepting early midterm ballots.
What was your voting experience like? What went right and wrong today? Send me an email at email@example.com or call 816-234-4261 with your experience.
In Johnson County, voters can find information on the election office website at voter.jocoelection.org.
In Kansas City, voters can find information online at the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners website, at kceb.org.
This story includes information that started from ProPublica’s Electionland project, which monitors voting problems around the country. If you had trouble voting, or if you saw something you want to tell us about, here’s how.
The Star will cover action at the polls around the Kansas City area all day. Check back for updates.