Awkward: Missouri poll worker turns away Mayor from voting

Imagine the feeling of surprise the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri must have experienced Tuesday morning when he checked in at his local polling place and the poll worker turned him away. That is what happened to Mayor Quinton Lucas.

Lucas started off his day by making a quick little 20-second video in front of his polling place. Bipartisan in tone, he encouraged everyone to get out and vote in the primary election.

Then, before 7:00 a.m., upon trying to cast a vote himself, the poll worker told the mayor that he “wasn’t in the system.” Lucas said he had been voting at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church at 22nd and Olive streets since 2009. He showed a copy of a utility bill as proof of address – Missouri voters do not have to show a photo id. When the poll worker told Lucas that he didn’t find his name on the registered voters roll, Lucas provided his Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners’ ID. He still didn’t find the mayor’s name. After about 10 minutes, the poll worker offered the mayor a provisional ballot. The mayor turned it down because he “wanted to make sure his vote was registered so that if anyone checked his record it would show he voted.” Politicians, or anyone considering a political run, are very careful to make sure they have a record of voting in both primary elections and general elections. Voters don’t feel inclined to vote for a candidate who doesn’t bother to vote. Mayor Lucas has only been in office since 2019, so I’m guessing he had his political future in mind when he turned down the provisional ballot.

“If the mayor can get turned away, that would mean anybody can . . . so it’s something we all need to try to address,” Lucas said.

Lucas said he planned to return to his polling location later Tuesday to try again, but that the experience was frustrating.

“A lot of people won’t come back either because they have to go to work or because it has the opportunity to be a slightly embarrassing experience,” Lucas said.

At the time he took it in stride. “Go figure, but that’s okay.”

It turned out that the poll worker entered the mayor’s name incorrectly. Lauri Ealom, the Democratic director of the Kansas City Board of Elections called the mayor about 45 minutes later to explain the poll worker reversed his first and last name. “He put his last name in as his first name and his first name in as his last name,” she said. She assured the mayor that no one else had been turned away and that voting was running smoothly.

Later, after some time had passed, Lucas revised his earlier tweet. He said he was being Midwestern nice and also passive aggressive in the first tweet. What happened to him is really not okay. “Mayor Q” clarified it with a second tweet.

“A lot of us in this region are used to folks talking about voting irregularities; talking about those sort of issues,” Lucas said. “I think the biggest threat to American elections is that American’s can’t vote too often. Unfortunately that was the situation I ran into this morning.”

Lucas said he hoped to follow up with the Election Board and others to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.

“We need to find a way to make sure it works all the time,” Lucas said.

So, what is the lesson here? Besides learning that the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri has a self-described passive-aggressive personality, we learned that elections go smoothly only if the poll workers are well-trained and able to handle basic tasks. We don’t know if any other worker had a problem today, as I write this late Tuesday morning the voting is still going on. It would be really strange for the mayor to be the only one to be offered a provisional ballot because of not appearing on the voter registration log. He was on the voter roll, most probably, because he was turned away when his name was incorrectly entered.

I’ve worked that job before myself – I worked a very long 14 hour day on the day of the general election in 2016. I checked-in voters and it is a tedious, sometimes time-consuming process. Voters give all kinds of reasons why their names and address don’t match up or why their name isn’t on the roll. I can’t help but think the poll worker at fault in this case should have asked another worker with a fresh set of eyes to double check for the mayor’s correct name. Surely someone else would have discovered that the mayor’s name was being entered incorrectly.

I’ll note, too, that the mayor mentioned past voter irregularities. He is a Democrat and director of the Kansas City Board of Elections is a Democrat. He has no standing to cry partisan shenigans here, if that is where this is going. We often hear the claims that long lines and problems with voting machines happen in polling places with a majority of minority voters. That happened in the primary election in Texas on Super Tuesday. In Houston (Harris County) some voters, mostly black and Hispanic, were in line for hours. The only people they have to point a finger at are the local Democrats in charge of Harris County who were running the election.