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Nick’s Picks | Navigating Election Day, And Days to Come

Patience and Realistic Expectations Needed This Week

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)

The wait is finally over and “decision day” is upon us.  At the stroke of 6 a.m. on Tuesday, polling stations will open in both Kansas and Missouri. 

Large numbers of metro area residents have already voted. In fact, in Johnson County more than half of all registered voters have cast their ballots. They’re now just waiting for the results.

If you haven’t voted, you may be surprised to learn that masks are not mandatory. In Kansas and Missouri it is prohibited to prevent someone from voting just because they refuse to wear a face covering. 

Local elected officials are asking for patience, particularly on the Missouri side of the state line where there are fewer avenues to cast ballots early.  In Kansas City, they’re encouraging voters to bring a good book, a portable chair and even a backup cell phone battery.  It may seem like overkill but it’s hard to predict how things will unfold during this unpredictable election year.

One significant and overlooked reason why people don’t vote is lack of transportation. On Election Day RideKC buses are all free and even Bird electric scooters are going to be free here in Kansas City if you punch in the code, Vote2020. It’s unclear how many people are going to be heading to the polls on a scooter but it’s an option. 

Speaking of free, head into any Krispy Kreme location on Election Day and you’re going to get a free donut. No purchase necessary.

COVID Considerations

I got an email from a viewer who asked what happens if you contract COVID-19 or are told to quarantine before Election Day? 

I asked that question on “Kansas City Week in Review” last week and several reporters said those impacted voters would be out of luck. But actually that’s not the case.

The Jackson County Election Board is offering curbside voting for anyone who’s tested positive or in quarantine because of the virus. If that’s you, drive-through voting will be available all day on Election Day behind their Absentee Office at 110 N. Liberty St. in Independence.  

Don’t want to travel that far? In Kansas City, there will be curbside service outside of Union Station. That’s where the city election board has its headquarters. 

What Happens Now? 

Regardless of who wins on Election Day, large numbers of us are going to be unhappy. A newly released Reuters/Ipsos poll finds 41% of Trump supporters say they won’t accept a Biden win. The data finds 43% of Biden supporters won’t accept a Trump victory.

On this Friday’s “Kansas City Week in Review” we’ll dissect the results and ask, now what? Join our bi-state election wrap-up Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden
This combination of Sept. 29, 2020, file photos shows President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo | Patrick Semansky, File)

When Will We Know?

Just as local election officials are calling for voters to be patient on Election Day that may also be the watchword for Election Night. The big question is when will we get the election results? 

In Johnson County, election commissioner Connie Schmidt believes her office will be in a position to post results by 9 p.m. That may be wishful thinking. 

If there’s a huge number of people waiting in line at 7 p.m. when the polls are scheduled to close, the law requires they still be allowed to cast ballots. In 2016, the lines were so long in some places that polling stations didn’t effectively close until close to 10 p.m. 

But there are lots of other reasons why we may see a delay in results.

Just cast your mind back two years ago, when it took a week to learn the results in the Republican primary for Kansas governor between Kris Kobach and Jeff Colyer. At the heart of the delay were technical problems with voting machines in Johnson County. 

And few of us are likely to remember that in the 2008 presidential election, it took two weeks to call Missouri for John McCain. He would win the state over Barack Obama by a margin of 0.1%. Missouri was the last state to finalize results in the presidential contest. 

And consider the unusual complexities of this year’s election. Confusion over voting rules is prompting a high number of provisional ballots to be cast this election year. Those ballots are not counted until a week after the election, when local officials have time to verify whether the individual is eligible to vote or hasn’t voted twice.

In close contests that could change results. Just consider that in Johnson County alone there have been more than 4,000 provisional ballots cast. These are from individuals who showed up at a polling station to vote even though they had already requested a mail-in ballot. Those votes won’t be included in election night tallies. 

More Clampdowns?

Last week, the Kansas City area shattered a record it didn’t want to break. More COVID-19 deaths occurred than at any time since the pandemic began. 

Now health officials in Johnson County say they’re entering what they describe as “dangerous territory.” But what does that mean? And will it lead this week to any new restrictions on businesses, schools and other institutions? 

So far, there’s been a reluctance to impose more clampdowns. And that may become harder after this election. The virus is very much on the ballot.

Will voters repudiate or validate candidates who have been skeptical of virus related restrictions?

Who wins county commission, legislative and state board of education seats could well determine future action on mask mandates, schools closings and the power of local health departments to impose restrictions.

Counting Chickens?

In the category of “counting chickens before they hatched,” the influential Washington news site Politico is naming former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander as a likely pick to be secretary of veterans affairs in a Biden administration. 

Kander, who lives in Kansas City, is a former army intelligence officer who is now leading an effort to end veteran homelessness. 

While the story is grabbing headlines locally, there are lots of other names being considered for that job, including Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who lost both her legs in a combat mission in Iraq, and former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who served in Afghanistan.

Plus, Biden still has to win on Tuesday.

NBA in KC?

Kansas City’s quest to land an NBA team, at least temporarily, could be a long shot. 

With concern over the ability of the Toronto Raptors to continue to travel between Canada and the United States during this pandemic, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes have written to the NBA commissioner asking the league to make Kansas City the team’s temporary home. 

That story is getting lots of local attention. But if you take a look at coverage elsewhere around the country, you’ll note aabout a dozen other cities also believe they’re the perfect pick, from Louisville to Newark, Atlantic City to Buffalo and Las Vegas to Seattle. And there’s still no final word on negotiations that might permit the Raptors to continue to play in Toronto. 

And now a new obstacle has surfaced. Three local civil rights organizations have written to the NBA commissioner’s office discouraging the move. The letter says in part, “although Kansas City is a great sports city, it is also a city where law enforcement has demonstrated extreme hostility and excessive force towards Black people.” 

As Kansas City awaits a response this week, the clock is ticking. The new NBA season could start as early as Christmas Day. 

Special Session

Usually after an election our politicians head into hibernation for a while. But not in Missouri. State lawmakers return to the Capitol this week for a rare, lame-duck special session. 

Why you ask? That’s a question a number of lawmakers are still asking. They say Gov. Mike Parson hasn’t provided details of what he wants them to do. 

The governor’s office says that’s not true. Parson, who’s on a 33-stop campaign bus tour, says he announced the session for the purpose of passing a supplemental budget bill that would include funding for school lunches, job training grants and homeless programs. Plus, he seeks money for the National Guard, which has been helping with the state’s pandemic response. 

Missouri has federal relief money to spend. The state received more than $3 billion in coronavirus aid. About $1.2 billion remains unspent. 

Parson says he’ll also ask lawmakers to find the money for a new witness protection program legislators approved during the recent special session on crime. And he’s open to expanding the scope of the session to pass legislation shielding businesses such as nursing homes from COVID related lawsuits. 

The special session gets underway on Thursday. 

Early Holiday

When is it considered too early to put up your holiday decorations? Is it too early to put up your tree and lights before Election Day?

Today, the metro’s first big holiday lighting event gets underway. 

Organizers are promising the “longest animated light tunnel in the Midwest.” It’s called Winter Magic and it’s a drive-through holiday light event that stretches one mile through Swope Park.

It costs $20 and that’s for as many people as you can fit into your car or truck. In addition to the light tunnel there are spinning trees, lighted animals and nine themed areas including a toy workshop and a section called the 12 Days of Christmas. 

By the way, you have to purchase the tickets online and pick a day and time slot for your arrival. 

It starts tonight and runs through Jan. 2.  The website is WinterMagicKC.com.

The proceeds go to the Kansas City Parks Department’s summer camp scholarship fund.

Nick Haines tracks the week’s biggest local news stories. Watch “Kansas City Week in Review” Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

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