OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Early voting began in Kansas a week ago, and is set to continue through Saturday. But early voting is an option that voters across the state like in Missouri don’t have, and many are wondering why the Show-Me State is lagging behind.
On Monday, nearly 200 people an hour cast their votes early at the Metcalf South shopping center. For many, the brief wait on Monday was better than waiting in line on Election Day, November 6th.
“Being able to do it at your convenience I think is great and I think you’ll probably get more people doing it, because there were times when I had to question if it was worth it to vote when you had to stand out in a long line.,” said voter Barbara Simon.
According to election supervisor Anne Malin, so many people in Johnson County take advantage of early voting that the county has been able to close some polling places early on Election Day – saving the county some money.
“Voters really like it because many people may be out of town or they have a doctor’s appointment on an Election Day, this way they get to come out and vote when it’s most convenient for them,” said Malin.
In the 2008 presidential election, nearly half of all Johnson County voters voted early. But across the state line in Kansas City, that figure is only eight percent because the only way to vote early is by absentee ballot.
“That can’t be good,” said Johnson County early voter Mark Williams. “You’re going to disenfranchise a lot of people I would think.”
Officials with the Kansas City Board of Elections say that nearly 80 percent of the calls they receive deal with early voting. Instead of having the option of voting early, Missouri voters must fill out paperwork swearing that they will be out of town on election day, or in the case of Teresa Perry, working the election so they need an absentee ballot to vote now.
“I think what Kansas is doing is making it better,” said Perry. “Hopefully we’ll get with the program that Missouri and go ahead and say, ‘Hey, let’s do this and it’ll make it better for all’.”
Shawn Keiffer, Republican director of Elections with the Kansas City Board of Elections, says that early voting would likely increase turnout.
“I think it would make our voters happy,” said Keiffer.
Some political analysts say Missouri doesn’t offer early voting because GOP leaders won’t agree unless it comes with a photo ID requirement – which Democrats refuse to agree to. In Kansas, a photo ID is required for early voting.