April 7 general municipal elections in Missouri have been moved to June 2, following Gov. Mike Parson’s executive order Wednesday morning.
The move affects city and school elections in Independence, Blue Springs, Grain Valley and elsewhere.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft requested the delay after initially saying Monday the elections would go on as planned. The Jackson County Election Board announced Tuesday it and many election jurisdictions around the state would petition state appellate courts for a postponement. Board Director Corey Dillon said it would not only be a challenge to keep polling places sanitized amid a pandemic, but also it would be difficult to secure enough election judges and volunteers – many of whom are in the at-risk age population for the virus – and polling places with so many cancelations and building closures.
In a release, Parson called his decision “a necessary step to help combat the spread of the virus and protect the health and safety of Missouri voters,” given the number of people elections will attract.
“Postponing an election is not easy, but we are all in this together,” he said.
In Independence, that means the four council district elections will wait and the current members will continue to serve into June. District 3 (the southeast part of the city) representative Scott Roberson did not run for re-election, and District 4 (southwest) representative Tom Van Camp lost in a three-person primary in February. Michael Steinmeier and Dan O’Neill are running in District 3, and Chris Heitzman and Dan Hobart are running in District 4. District 2 (northeast) incumbent Curt Dougherty is opposed by Brice Stewart, and John Perkins in District 1 is unopposed.
If indeed the election happens June 2, the Independence’s new council would be sworn in June 15.
Blue Springs has mayoral and council elections. Incumbent Mayor Carson Ross is opposed by current Council Members Susan Culpepper and Chris Lievsay and former Council Member Dale Carter.
The Independence council held an emergency meeting last Friday instead of meeting Monday this week and also canceled next week’s study session, so it is not scheduled to meet until April 6. Mayor Eileen Weir said there are still some things to iron out before then, such as remote access for some who would normally be in attendance, as well as ensuring public access.
“We are trying to figure out how to conduct council meetings that satisfy the Sunshine Law, satisfy the open meeting (requirement), honor our social distancing and the fact that facilities (right now) are closed to the public,” Weir said. “We have some time to figure that out, and we don’t know what the social situation will be.
“But we can’t just cancel council meetings for eight weeks.”
The main priorities, Weir said, are to present a balanced budget in May and continue to prove essential services. Normally, the council would approve the budget at the June 15 meeting. Applicants with matters that involve public hearings could ask to postpone, Weir said, and city staff are figuring out how to allow citizens to address the council.
“We’re taking a look at what we absolutely have to do, and then how we can safely conduct business to allow us to do those things,” Weir said.
While the election is postponed, voter registration that closed March 11 will not be reopened, according to Parson’s executive order, and the deadline to file as a write-in candidate remains March 27. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is May 20, and in-person absentee ballots must be cast by June 1.
Besides the council elections in Independence and Blue Springs, the June 2 ballots, varying by location in Eastern Jackson County, include council elections and a use tax question in Lee’s Summit; mayoral and aldermen elections in Grain Valley and Oak Grove; school bond issues in Grain Valley and Lee’s Summit; two bond questions in Grain Valley for a new municipal complex; a sales tax question for Sugar Creek Fire; and school board elections in Blue Springs, Fort Osage, Grain Valley, Lee’s Summit, Oak Grove.