The mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, was turned away at the polls when he tried to vote in the state’s primary because he “wasn’t in the system,” he said in a tweet on Tuesday.
The mayor, Quinton Lucas, clarified that he was later called and notified that the poll worker had been mistaken. But he argued that the incident showed the ways in which voters without the sway of public office could be shut out from the democratic process without a system designed to take human error into account.
“If the mayor can get turned away, think about everyone else,” he said in a tweet. “We gotta do better.”
Lauri Ealom, a director of the Kansas City Election Board, said in a video posted to Twitter that the mistake had arisen because a poll worker had swapped Lucas’ first and last names when looking up his registration.
According to the New York Times, Lucas said he spent 10 minutes trying to convince a poll worker that he was registered to vote—he had voted at the same location for 11 years, he said in his tweet. After he was turned away, an election official called him to inform him of the mistake. He said he would return to vote later in the day.
Lucas also emphasized that many people cannot return to vote again because of work or child care obligations and may lose out on voting altogether if they are turned away. “I get that mistakes happen,” he told the Times. “We need to make sure we have a system where we don’t have mistakes.”
Ealom gently pushed back on Lucas’ tweet. Speaking with the Times, she said that his comments “amplified a user error by an elder poll worker.” In the video posted to Twitter, she apologized to Lucas for the inconvenience and said that if any other voters experienced something similar, they could cast provisional ballots or call her office.
For more on the 2020 election, listen to Monday’s episode of What Next.