Tuesday, February 26, 2013

COLUMN: Wyandotte County voters get shaft by state in election

"Your vote is a precious freedom. A freedom that has been preserved by thousands of men and women who protect this great nation."     

When you visit the Wyandotte County Election Office's Website, that's a quote that welcomes you.

While I rarely vote in elections, I still appreciate the importance of voting and the power of a vote. It's one of the few times the average citizen has a powerful tool to make a difference in his or her community.

In Tuesday's primary, 7.91 percent of Wyandotte County voters determined the two finalists in a number of important elections, most notably the future mayor of Wyandotte County.

Primary turnout numbers are always low. There's a lot of voter apathy in Wyandotte County and across the nation due to our political system.

Still, you can't deny that two large snowstorms played a significant role in the low turnout.

You also can't deny the fact the State of Kansas should have a policy that allows elections to be pushed back or delayed if there's an emergency. Oh, say, like the two largest snowstorms Kansas City's had in my 28 years of living coming within five days of each other.

The Wyandotte County Election Office took some heat this week, but they had no choice in the matter. Under Kansas state law, no one has the authority to postpone an election.

This should change, especially in a state that's located in the heart of a geographical region we call "Tornado Alley."

There should have been a Plan B option available in order for the state to postpone the election 24-48 hours - especially when the State's Governor has declared a "state of emergency" and when many mayors declared a state of emergency in communities across Kansas. 

I give the State of Kansas and Secretary of State Kris Kobach credit for pushing the advanced voting deadline back to 7 p.m. the Monday before the election. That was the right decision.

Still, due to the Presidents Day holiday and about two feet of snow falling on KCK this week, the advanced voting options were limited for many Wyandotte County residents. 

After this election, it's time to give Kansas the option of postponing an election. How hard would it have been to postpone the election to Wednesday, Thursday or Friday of this week, when the roads would be cleared for sure?

Postponing the election would have also allowed Wyandotte County to have all of its polling locations open during the election. Most of us have the ability to simply drive to our voting location.

However, others do not, and the importance of having a voting location within walking distance is even more obvious following a blizzard that created terrible road conditions - despite some great work being done by a lot of people in Wyandotte County.

A tax-paying citizen should never have to pick between safety and casting a vote.

Perhaps the biggest reason why government in general has a low approval rating these days is because it lacks common sense.

We in the Midwest pride ourselves on using "common sense"  - but this was another example of a government lacking common sense. 

Here's hoping Kansas develops a Plan B very soon when it comes to elections and emergencies.

Nick Sloan, nick@kansascitykansan.com