Despite relatively short waits at most polling locations across the Kansas City metro, COVID-positive voters in Kansas City, Missouri — who were encouraged to use curbside voting at Union Station — are waiting hours to cast their ballots.
Cedric Schofield and his wife originally planned to wake up at 6:30 a.m. this morning to vote at their assigned polling place, Hale Cook Elementary School. But yesterday, his wife was diagnosed with COVID-19, so they made an appointment to vote curbside at Union Station at 7:45 a.m.
They arrived at their designated time and waited in line in their car for an hour and 45 minutes, only to be told to go home and wait until they were called by the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners to return. They were finally able to vote at 1:30 p.m.
“It’s been pretty frustrating,” Schofield said. “I could have told you there would have been more than two people to show up to curbside voting. Just look at the infection rate in Kansas City right now, it’s insane to me.”
The long wait times for COVID-positive voters comes as cases continue to rise in Missouri, with a 23% increase over the last 14 days, according to The New York Times. In Kansas City, Missouri, the daily average in COVID-19 cases over the last 7 days is nearly 183, the Times analysis found.
A line of cars has stretched around Union Station in Kansas City for most of the day as election workers conduct curbside voting for those who may have been exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19 and did not vote before Election Day.
One COVID-positive voter waiting in her vehicle, who asked not to use her name, said she arrived at Union Station at 8:20 a.m.
“We’ll have been waiting maybe a total of four hours to cast my vote,” she said. “We have a number of children at home who are virtual learning so we’ve had to take time out of our work days and school days to cast a ballot.”
“We’ve just been overwhelmed with so many COVID voters,” said Sally Miller, Kansas City Election Board commissioner.
Many states have implemented curbside voting procedures during the pandemic, including Mississippi, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Minnesota and Ohio. But the Supreme Court blocked the effort in Alabama. In Harris County, Texas, Republicans attempted to sue to have ballots thrown out that were submitted via drive-thru voting; the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the suit.
While curbside voting is available at all KCEB sites, they’re encouraging COVID-positive voters to come to Union Station because, “KCEB believes this will be a safer, more convenient, and faster option than doing it at your home poll.”
But not all voters in the line for curbside voting were exposed to COVID-19. The Beacon spoke with several voters waiting in line at Union Station who said they were not COVID-19 positive.
Election workers at the Union Station curbside voting site wore face masks, face shields and gloves. However, that was less personal protective equipment than staff members of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners used in their curbside voting efforts Nov. 2, who also wore protective suits.
When asked if she feels the curbside voting is safe, Miller with KCEB said, “I don’t have time to be worried… I think we’ve taken every possible precaution, given what it is.”
Earlier on Tuesday, poll workers had to pre-print ballots in the elections office and then notify the voter to meet back up with them outside Union Station so they could vote. Now they’re able to print ballots at the poll site, Miller said.
“We’ve got a smoother system now that we know what we’re up against,” Miller said.
But voters at the curbside location at Union Station should still anticipate long waits if they vote here, she said.
“We’re working hard and we’re really glad they’re coming and they’re involved,” Miller said, adding they want voters to “stay with us.”
Polling locations in Missouri close at 7 p.m. Miller emphasized that all voters in line at 7 p.m. — “even if you’re way back,” she said — will get to vote.