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Records show several KC mayoral candidates didn't vote in recent elections

Posted at 9:39 PM, Aug 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-02 23:48:40-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Candidates running to become the next mayor of Kansas City are asking for your vote next spring. But records show some didn't head to the polls themselves in recent elections.

Through requests to the Kansas City Election Board, 41 Action News uncovered former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, attorney Steve Miller and business owner Rita Berry all did not vote in at least one election since 2015.

Kander's name is absent from the voter list for the November 2017 KCI election and from the one for general obligation (GO) bonds in April 2017. 

"Yes, like a lot of my friends and neighbors, in my 19 years as a registered voter, I have missed a few local elections, but it's been pretty rare," Kander said.

Kander explained he was out of town working with his organization to end voter suppression, Let America Vote, on the day of the KCI election. For the GO bond election, Kander said he was not yet eligible to vote in Kansas City and should have changed his voter registration earlier so he could participate. 

According to KCEB records, fellow mayoral candidate Steve Miller did not vote in the June 2015 mayoral and council race, nor the April 2016 school and earnings tax election. 

"I generally vote in all local elections if I am in town. As a trial lawyer, I handle cases around the country and am sometimes out of the city," Miller wrote in an email to 41 Action News.

Miller said he would check the records and get back to us, but our follow-up calls and emails were not answered by the time of publication. We will update the story when we receive further comment.

Candidate Rita Berry said she was out of town for the April 2017 GO bond election, and "will be out of town this Tuesday as well." Berry said she has never voted absentee.

Some of the candidates' opponents didn't mince words in their reaction to what we found.

"It's kind of hard for us to say that voting is very important if we're not actually making sure we do it ourselves," Councilman Quinton Lucas said.

Lucas added voting can be taken as a sign of someone's engagement in local issues.

Councilman Jermaine Reed, who is also running for mayor, declined to comment directly on his opponents' records. However, Reed emphasized it's important to "practice what you preach."

"It doesn't matter if the election is about the dog catcher or about general obligation bonds or the Kansas City airport, it is important to vote in every single election for me personally," Reed said. 

But Councilwoman Jolie Justus, who dropped out of the race when Kander announced, said his voting record does not impact her endorsement. 

"I know where Jason stands on the issues that are important to KC, and that's why I support him," she said. 

41 Action News asked Kander for his views on the GO KC and the new terminal at KCI. 

He described the passage of $800 million in GO bonds for infrastructure repair as a "game changer."

"As the next mayor, I'm going to make sure we are monitoring that process going forward, that it's progress shared across the city, so every area of the city has an opportunity to benefit from it," Kander said. 

Kander also said he's watching the new terminal at KCI to make sure the project is completed efficiently and with plenty of opportunities for union workers and minority and women-owned businesses.

He doesn't believe having missed two recent elections speaks to his engagement in local issues. 

"I have always been elected because the folks in Kansas City know me, and they've supported me, and I wouldn't have been elected to any of these positions without my fellow Kansas Citians," Kander said.