Lengthy Jackson County ballot has some pushing for early voting in Missouri

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Lines have already been forming for absentee voting at the Jackson County Election office in Independence. Although lines at the polls are nothing new, it’s rare to see lines forming for absentee voting.

“It’s a really, really long ballot,” Corey Dillon with the Jackson County Election Board said.

All told, most voters in Jackson County will receive a ballot with more than 40 questions. It’s believed to be the longest ballot in county history.

“For people who aren’t prepared, it can take it as long as 40 minutes,” Dillon said. “For people who are prepared it takes about 10.”

For that reason, Dillon is  urging Jackson County voters to review a sample ballot to speed up the process.

The main reason the Jackson County ballot is longer than others in the metro is a list of seven proposals to amend the county charter.

“Mainly what it has to do with is term limits and also ethics,” said Dan Tarwater, a Jackson County legislator. “In the past those are combined into one question, this time we split it up into seven.”

It’s why Tarwater and others wish Missouri would allow for early voting -- like Kansas.

“It’s still puzzling that Missouri has not yet tried to do this thing (early voting) that makes it convenient,” said Dave Helling, with the Kansas City Star.

Missouri is one of only 13 states that does not allow early voting. According to the Associated Press, 42 percent of people nationwide now vote early.

Although the oversized Jackson County ballot will almost certainly create lines on Tuesday, Helling believes voting on ballot issues is a powerful form of direct democracy, and hopes people aren’t discouraged by wordy ballot language or lines at the polls.

“This is actually making the laws at the ballot box,” Helling said. “That’s why it’s unfortunate that it so confusing and long and obscure.”

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