Charter review commission looking at primary dates

The Charter Review Commission is now looking into a long unsung city problem: its voting schedule does not comply with state and federal law.

Other charter review groups have looked at a fix, but election rules are so byzantine that none has happened, the city attorney said.

The problem: The dates for the city primary and general elections are only 28 days apart, but state law gives absentee voters six weeks to get in their ballots.

Ballots sometimes arrive after the general election and cannot be counted, Shelley McThomas, Democratic director for the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners told charter commissioners.

The state also requires that election officials send out absentee ballots 10 weeks before an election, which is not possible for the general election.

And federal law requires that ballots be mailed out 45 days before elections to such people as military or civilian government workers overseas. No can do.

Commissioner Steve Glorioso said he was disturbed by what he was told – that the city disenfranchises voters.

“It’s a dirty little secret,” McThomas said, “and it’s unfair.”

The next city primary elections are Feb. 24, 2015 and the next general election is March 24, 2015.

The election board suggested possible changes in election times to February 3 and April 7, or April 7 and June 2.

Those involve election days for other entities as well so costs could be split.

It would also save $53,829 that must be spent each year to rent additional voting machines because the primary and general are so close together that machines cannot be reused that quickly.

They did not know why voter turnout has been fading for the city elections.

For the section of the city covered by the Kansas City election board, it was 38 percent in the 1995 general election and 22 percent for that in 2011.

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