Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas never thought he would be turned away from a polling place when he tried to cast a vote in Missouri’s primary on March 10. But that’s exactly what happened.
Lucas revealed on Twitter that he was told he “wasn’t in the system” at a polling location he had used countless times, including four times to vote for himself. The mayor said the incident occurred shortly after he shot a video that touched on the importance of voting and encouraged voters to cast their votes.
“I made a video this morning about the importance of voting and then got turned away because I wasn’t in the system even though I’ve voted there for 11 years, including for myself four times! Go figure, but that’s okay. We’ll be back later today!” he tweeted.
Lucas later clarified that the situation wasn’t actually okay. “By the way, me writing, ‘but that’s okay,’ was me being Midwestern and passive aggressive. It’s really not okay,” he wrote. Talked to the election director this AM and will be following up further,” he wrote. “If the mayor can get turned away, think about everyone else…We gotta do better.”
In an interview with The New York Times, Lucas said that he was later told that he had been turned away due to human error. The Democratic mayor, who began his term last year, was repeatedly told he was not on the voter rolls despite using a utility bill to confirm his identity.
“I was probably a bit frustrated,” he told The New York Times. “The other thing that got in my head was it’s a little embarrassing being turned away at the polls”
Shortly after the incident, Lucas said Lauri Ealom, an election official at the Kansas City Election Board, called him to let him know that the poll worker had incorrectly input his name. While he was able to successfully cast his vote later that day, Lucas noted that other voters, particularly those of color, would not have the same privilege.
“It’s clear to me that there is a problem,” he said. “At a time when we’re trying to get people to have faith in voting, making sure every voter feels valued is vital for us. My experience today made me feel a little less important.”
Ealom maintained that the situation could have quickly been fixed at the polling location by seeking voter-assistance specialists at the polling location. She added that the incident was not an example of voter suppression.
Missouri and Voter Suppression
Earlier this year, Missouri’s Supreme Court gutted the state’s photo voter ID law, thus making it possible for voters to cast their ballots without bringing non-photo identification.
The 5-2 ruling reversed the 2016 law that was passed by the Republican-led legislature, which established three options for voting. According to The Kansas City Star, voters would be allowed to vote with an approved photo ID, vote with a non-photo ID and sign an affidavit stating they did not have a “form of personal identification approved for voting,” or cast a provisional ballot.
The law, which received the support of 63 percent of Missourians, was challenged in court by DC-based voting rights organization Priorities USA on behalf of Jackson County voter Mildred Gutierrez. In her lawsuit, Gutierrez claimed she found the affidavit “confusing” and “threatening.” She signed an affidavit in 2017 despite having a birth certificate, voter ID card and Social Security card. Gutierrez believed she needed to get a photo ID in order to vote in the future, prompting her to get a state-issued non-driver’s license that took over an hour to get.
On January 14, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that affidavit’s language was unconstitutional.
“Missouri’s voter ID restrictions are an example of the countless laws that lead to unnecessary and burdensome barriers to voting across the country,” Priorities USA chairman Guy Cecil said in a statement to The Kansas City Star.
The North Star How Laws Suppress the Black Vote
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.