Kansas City hoping to accommodate mask-averse Republican even as mask mandate still in effect for poll workers

Democrat-laden Kansas City, Missouri has enough trouble attracting Republicans to be poll workers alongside Democrats. It needs to grab them whenever it can.

“It’s always a struggle,” Shawn Kieffer, the Republican director of the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners (KCEB), tells The Heartlander. “I’d say Kansas City’s 80% Democrat. So it’s difficult to find [GOP poll workers].”

Lately the board has been able to largely achieve the 50-50 Republican/Democrat mix of poll workers required by law. But just barely.

“Democrats, we just have thousands of,” Kieffer says. “But Republicans, we struggle to get them, that’s for sure. We always make pleas for election day judges, especially Republican ones. We need all the help we can get.”

Thus, it concerned Republican Brenda Lax when she did step up to apply as an election judge and was turned away because of her avowed aversion to mask wearing.

Lax tells The Heartlander that she did, indeed, express an aversion to COVID-19 masks at her poll worker training earlier this year, though she agreed to wear a shield. That reluctance apparently led the KCEB to say it wouldn’t use her in the upcoming Nov. 8 election, after she was an at-home alternate for the Aug. 2 primary.

Fact is, she didn’t even know she’d been rejected until inquiring about it recently.

However, in an interview with The Heartlander, Lax said she’d be more than willing to wear a shield in November if that works for the election board.

Told that by The Heartlander, Kieffer said it certainly would work for him, and he’ll propose at a board meeting on Tuesday that Lax be allowed to wear a shield in November.

Kieffer and others The Heartlander reached out to explained that, even as masks have become optional in most other sectors of society, they’re mandatory at voting stations because the average age of poll workers is a staggering 76. It’s a demographic that is among the most vulnerable to COVID.

Kieffer said mask policies for future elections will be decided on at the appropriate time, but that a mask requirement is still needed in November. Voters are not required to wear masks.

Lax, who is 63, hopes that going forward, more younger Republicans who are less susceptible to COVID will step forward to work elections and to make sure they are run fairly. She said conservatives and Republicans need to be assured there isn’t fraud.

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