With longest ballot in Jackson County history, here’s how to speed up the voting process

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- The clerks at the Jackson County Board of Election Commissioners have spent the last five weeks working some of the longest absentee voter lines the county has ever had.

"We start absentee voting six weeks out. This has been going for at least five weeks. We've had people wanting to vote before we even had ballots printed," said Tammy Brown, the director of elections in Jackson County.

This year's Jackson County ballot is the biggest the county has ever had, Brown said.

"We have an 8.5-by-19-inch front-and-back ballot, so the ballot is very long. We were within an inch of going to a third page. Front, back and a third page. It is full," Brown said. "There’s just so much information on there. There’s seven state questions, seven county charter questions, the candidates, the 16th circuit, Supreme Court, and then we have the Kansas City library."

Brown said voters coming in without a plan are spending almost 45 minutes in the booth.

But the county is offering free sample ballots that can be downloaded online to help speed up the process. Jennifer Brown, a Jackson County voter, said filling out her sample ballot cut her voting time in half.

"I was shocked at how long it was, but I had prepared myself a little bit before for the sections I needed. It helped me vote a lot quicker because I already had a plan in place, and I knew who I wanted to vote for," she said.

In Johnson County, Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker said voter involvement has climbed once again, and the lines for early voters have been steady.

"All-time voter registration numbers now 419,400 -- an all-time record. Then we continue with advance vote by mail. We are superseding the 2016 presidential vote by mail totals," Metsker said.

With less than a week until all ballots must be cast, election officials are urging the community to not waste time getting to the polls this year.

"Voting in advance in-person is fun, fast and flexible. Voting at a polling location on Election Day may not be any of the above fun, fast or flexible, so we encourage people to come out early," Metsker said.

"Be patient with our judges, with each other. We know there`s going to be lines, so we just need everybody to be patient," Brown said.

Polls open at 6 a.m. on Election Day and close at 7 p.m. If you work a shift that starts before the polls open and stretches beyond when they close, state law says your employer owes you time to go vote.

In Kansas, employees get two hours. In Missouri, employees get three. In both states, the time off is paid.

“People who work throughout that whole time or through a big chunk of that time are entitled to have 3 hours off of work to go vote if they are in the service of their employer the entire time,” said Corey Dillon, Democratic director of the Jackson County Election Board.

If you're looking for your polling place, visit your county's election website below: