The mayor of Kansas City struggled to vote Tuesday in the Missouri presidential primary after a poll worker mistakenly transposed his first and last names while searching for him in the voter rolls.
Mayor Quinton Lucas, a Democrat, made a video about the importance of voting before he headed into his normal polling location, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. But he said a worker couldn't find his name in the system Tuesday morning. He later learned that the worker had entered his name into the system as "Lucas Quinton."
The mayor returned Tuesday afternoon and successfully voted, but only after publicly airing his frustration in a manner that in turn frustrated the state's top election official, Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.
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"If he had wanted to vote, he could have voted" on his first attempt, Ashcroft said. "They tried to make it possible for him to vote."
When a longtime poll worker had trouble finding Lucas' name, she suggested Lucas could talk with a supervisor at a nearby table, but the mayor declined to do so, Ashcroft said. The poll worker then offered Lucas a chance to cast a provisional ballot, but Lucas declined.
Lucas called Ashcroft's response "the dumbest advice I’ve probably ever heard."
"A lot of other people who can't get off work would have come, would have done their experience for 20 minutes like I did and said, 'To hell with it,'" Lucas said. "And I think frankly the secretary of state should be more concerned about that than scoring somewhat bizarre political points that don't make sense."
Kansas City Elections Director Shawn Kieffer, a Republican, said the supervisor on site could have resolved the situation relatively quickly, but Lucas left the polling site Tuesday morning within a matter of minutes.
Lucas said his voting troubles highlighted concerns about the election system.
"I think frankly this is a sign that we need to do much better," Lucas said in a phone interview with The Associated Press in between when initially showed up to vote and when he later returned to do so.
"I think the biggest threat to America's elections is not letting people vote, and I think we saw a little of that challenge today," Lucas said.
Lucas said he initially thought the problem was that he was using his utility bill for identification instead of his driver's licence, which has expired. He said most people wouldn't have had the pull to figure out what happened.
"A regular person would just say, 'I guess I'm not on the voter rolls,'" he said.
Ashcroft said the mayor received no special treatment and that poll workers followed proper procedures in trying to resolve the situation.
"I'm irritated that he is throwing a poll worker under the bus," Ashcroft said. "I'm irritated that he is acting like they don't care about all voters, and I'm irritated that there may be — especially in the minority community — voters that look at this and say, 'Well gee, if the mayor wasn't allowed to vote, they're not going to let me vote,' and then they won't participate."
Kieffer described the situation with Lucas as an "anomaly," noting he hadn't heard of any other issues.
Lieb reported from Jefferson City, Missouri.