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Nick’s Picks | Prepping for Primary Election Day in Kansas City Big Decisions on Both Sides of State Line

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)
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Hundreds of candidates are begging for your support this week as we head into Primary Election Day on Tuesday. 

Will you vote? Have you already cast your ballot?

This is the biggest test of our election system since the COVID-19 pandemic began. And arguably it’s the most uncertain and underreported election in modern memory.

With concern over the coronavirus, an unprecedented number of Kansas Citians have chosen to vote by mail. 

Here’s three things to know about Election Day on Tuesday.

#1: This is probably the only time you can head into an indoor public space without wearing a mask. State election officials in Kansas and Missouri say you can’t be required to wear a face covering to vote. Will that discourage some from heading to the polls? Will it create a new source of conflict at the ballot box this week?

#2:  Fewer poll workers and sites willing to open their doors during this public health emergency means your regular polling station is likely to have changed and you’re going to have to travel a little further to cast your ballot. Here’s an interesting statistic that puts that into perspective. During the 2016 August primary there were 142 polling stations in Kansas City, Missouri. This year there are 50. 

#3: Don’t expect to know all the big results on Tuesday night. With so many mail-in and absentee ballots being cast, election officials are warning that in close races we may not know the results for days. And in some cases, until next week. 

Medicaid expansion 

In Missouri, the biggest issue on the ballot is expanding Medicaid. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have already expanded the federal healthcare program for low-income residents. 

So what’s at stake on Tuesday? Expansion would add about 230,000 adults to the program. But opponents claim that will come at a cost to Missouri when the state budget is already in a tailspin. The federal government pays 90% of the tab for expanding Medicaid. That means Missouri picks up the other 10% and that could be $200 million a year, by some estimates.

U.S. Senate seat in Kansas

The biggest race being decided in Kansas is who do you want to see replace Pat Roberts in the U.S. Senate?  Democrats have coalesced around state Sen. Barbara Bollier.  Not so for the Republicans where there’s a massive field of candidates flooding every radio and television break with their ads. Take a look at your ballot and you might be surprised to see 11 candidates’ names, though we only hear much about four of them. Plumber Bob Hamilton, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Kansas 1ST District Rep. Roger Marshall and former Chiefs player and Johnson County leader, Dave Lindstrom. 

We sized up this race and all of the big matchups you’ll be deciding on the latest edition of “Kansas City Week in Review” on Kansas City PBS. 

Challenging Davids

Two years ago Sharice Davids defeated Kevin Yoder, flipping the Kansas 3rd Congressional District from Republican to Democrat. That still stings for the GOP.  Five candidates on Tuesday are asking for your vote so they can take on Davids this fall. 

Amanda Adkins has been a top executive at Cerner. Sarah Hart Weir is the former head of the National Down Syndrome Society. Mike Beehler was an executive at engineering giant Burns and McDonnell. Adrienne Foster is the former mayor of Roeland Park. And Tom Love is a former state representative.

Criminal justice on the ballot? 

While handling of COVID-19 is expected to be a major factor in how voters pick candidates, is law enforcement and racial justice also on the ballot? 

In Jackson County, Sheriff Daryl Forte is being challenged by the man who once held his job, Mike Sharp. Sharp resigned after a lawsuit alleged he had a romantic, sexual and financial relationship with a female employee in his office. 

In Wyandotte County, District Attorney Mark Dupree is being challenged by Kristiane Bryant, an assistant prosecuting attorney in Jackson County. 

Many people skip what are often called “bottom of the ballot” races.  But it’s worth noting that mask mandates and shutdown orders have shown that some of the most significant decisions that have affected our lives have not come from the highest reaches of power in Washington D.C.. Rather, they’ve come from local elected leaders in the races we often pay no attention to on Election Day.  

More pandemic restrictions?

Can we expect another round of COVID-related shutdowns? Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly are both considering new restrictions this week. A big target is bars. In Kansas, Republican leaders claim Kelly no longer has the power to close private businesses. 

Check in the mail

Three months after Kansas City, Missouri called on Jackson County to release millions of dollars of federal aid for pandemic relief, the check will finally be put in the mail this week. Jackson County officials have announced they’ve cut a nearly $19 million check to the city. It will go towards faster testing, hiring contract tracers and efforts to support schools dealing with the pandemic. Mayor Lucas says he’s happy to get the cash but it’s only a fraction of the $54 million the city requested.

Decision day for local schools

While this is election week, it also marks decision day for tens of thousands of families in our metro. Most area school districts have set Friday as the time parents need to notify administrators on whether they plan to enroll their children for in-person or online classes this fall.  The majority of our local districts won’t reopen until after Labor Day.  In Kansas City, Kansas, in-person classes won’t begin until November.

Can you lead 23,000 kids?

Keeping your own kids in line can be challenging. Do you have what it takes to lead 23,000 of them? And do that job from a Zoom screen? The help wanted sign is going up this week in the Kansas City, Kansas School District after Superintendent Charles Foust abruptly resigned. He’s taking a new position in North Carolina. Foust had been on the job less than two years. District officials say the school board will discuss the process for hiring a new superintendent later this week.

School tax holiday

There may be no school to go back to, but that is not stopping the state of Missouri from offering you a Back to School Tax Holiday this weekend. Starting Friday, you won’t pay taxes on children’s clothes, shoes and back to school supplies from notebooks to laptop computers. It runs through midnight Sunday.

Nick Haines tracks the week’s local news, Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS. You can check out past episodes of “Kansas City Week in Review” on our YouTube channel

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