• Election board opens absentee voting facility to alleviate crowding

  • In 2008, more than 16,000 voters in Eastern Jackson County voted by absentee ballot.

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  • In 2008, more than 16,000 voters in Eastern Jackson County voted by absentee ballot.
    “We had people lined up outside and in our office,” said Bob Nichols, the Democratic director of the Jackson County Election Board, which oversees elections in the county outside Kansas City.
    Jump ahead four years to another busy presidential election year: five election dates, new legislative districts thanks to the 2010 census and even seemingly simple things like generating new notification cards for every registered voter. And the November ballot – with a presidential race, several statewide races and initiatives, state legislative contests and possibly local ballot issues – is expected to be long.
    “It is a crazy year,” said Tammy Brown, the board’s Republican director.
    This week, officials opened the doors to one solution: a storefront for absentee voting. It’s at 208 N. Liberty St., across the street from the Election Board’s office at 215 N. Liberty on the north edge of the Independence Square.
    “The more convenient you make it for voting, the better,” Brown said.
    The long lines create two problems:
    • One is for voters. “Too many people had to wait outside (in 2008). In August or November, it’s not always comfortable,” Brown said.
    • The other hangup is for the Election Board’s 26 employees hustling to get all of their election-year tasks done. “We cannot function with that many people on our lower floor,” Brown added.
    So the idea for a second site came up, and it’s open. Absentee voters can vote now in two Feb. 7 elections. In Grain Valley, the school district is asking for a $3.5 million bond issue for work at the Grain Valley North Middle School Also, four parties – Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Constitution – are holding presidential primaries. (Those aren’t getting a lot of attention because the Republican vote isn’t binding. The party will select convention delegates through caucuses.)
    Hours at the absentee site are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through Feb. 7. It’s also open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. this Saturday, plus Jan. 28 and Feb. 4.
    The storefront also will open as the absentee-voting periods come around for the April, June, August and November elections.
    At the moment, no June elections are scheduled, and Brown said officials would encourage a mail election if something comes up. Buckner, for example, has done that a couple of times in recent years. Officials say that’s cheaper and, since the ballot is mailed to the home, actually results in a higher voter turnout.

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