When Virginia Stuhr got her voter registration card in the mail earlier this month, she was surprised to see that her voting location had changed. No longer was she assigned to First Church of the Scientist, near 87th Street and Lamar and quite close to her house. Her new voting location was to be at Overland Park Lutheran Church, closer to downtown Overland Park at 79th Street and Lowell, and further away from her house.
The change caught Stuhr, who estimates she’d been voting at the same location for at least five years, off guard — and had her fretting that people might be turned off from voting if they found out they would have to travel further on election day.
“My fear is that people won’t vote,” she said. “It’s crucial that people vote this primary and general elections.”
August 2 primaries
• Some voter locations have changed this cycle
• School voting sites have been reduced because of security concerns
• Voters should double check their polling site via the election office website
• Advance voting options will be available through Saturday.
[/pullquote]The need to alter voting locations for many in Johnson County this election cycle comes as a result of the Election Office’s trouble securing facilities to host election operations. Between 2008 and 2016, 84 school buildings that once served as voting locations have been taken out of the election office’s available site inventory.
The reason, says Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker, the former chair of the Johnson County Republican Party, is that stepped-up security protocols by school districts no longer allow outsiders within school buildings after class has begun. The aftermath of school shootings like Columbine and Sandy Hook, Metsker said, has robbed local voters of the chance to vote at their local schools over security concerns.
“It’s a great American tradition that was stolen away from us as Americans,” he said.
With the loss of school buildings as sites for voting, the election office has scrambled to find replacement sites, employing city and county facilities as well as places of worship. But the net effect has been a sharp drop in the number of voting sites, which has necessitated a shift in voting location for many. There were 284 polling locations in Johnson County in 2008. This year, there will be just 209.
But, Metsker stresses, the reduction in polling places has not meant a reduction in actual polls. The county will still be setting up all 2,407 of its voting machines, just distributing them differently so they are more densely concentrated at each site. They’re also increasing the number of field workers to help ensure smooth operations at each polling site.
Metsker also reminded voters that they can take advantage of the six advance voting locations in the county through the end of this month. Advance voting locations will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. The advance voting locations this election cycle are:
- Johnson County Northeast Offices, 6000 Lamar
- JoCo Arts and Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Avenue
- Hilltop Campus – Blue Valley, 7700 W, 143rd Street
- Monticello Trails Middle School, 6100 Monticello Road
- JoCo Sunset Building – Room 1055, 11811 S. Sunset Drive
- JoCo Election Office, 2101 E. Kansas City Road
As for Stuhr, she decided against making the trek to her new polling location: She voted by mail instead.
You can confirm your polling location via the election office’s voter lookup tool here.