Casino, fire tax, Prop B and 8th District race bring out voters in Cape Girardeau, Jackson

Tuesday, November 2, 2010 ~ Updated 4:23 PM
Early voters fill the Precinct 15 poll at Bethany Baptist Church Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010 in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Precincts in Cape Girardeau were reporting heavy voter turnout Tuesday morning, some suggesting voter activity is comparable to 2008's presidential campaign, due in large part to strong interest in the city's controversial casino issue and the hotly contested U.S. House race between Jo Ann Emerson and Tommy Sowers.

Tuesday morning all six precincts in Jackson were also reporting strong, steady voter turnout, thanks to a fire tax and Proposition B.

By the lunch hour, Precinct 1 at Red Star Baptist Church reported 354 ballots cast, Grace United Methodist Church had seen 431 voters for Precinct 6 and more than 1,337 turned out at the Arena Building for Precincts 7 and 17. Election judges from all of those precincts said that turnout was at least as heavy as 2008.

"We have had a huge turnout," said Mary Klaproth, an election judge at Grace. "It's been busy since 6 o'clock this morning. The voting booths have all been full all morning long. I thought it would be busy, but I didn't think it would be this busy."

Opal Klaproth, election official at Jackson's Byrd 5 and 6 polling place, said she's seen a heavy stream of voters since the doors opened at 6 a.m.

"It's been very busy. It's big," she said. As of 10:45 a.m., the Jackson Junior High School polling location had seen 657 voters. While Klaproth said she did not know exactly how many people were registered to vote at her location, she and another worker estimated it was approximately 2,000.

County Clerk Kara Clark Summers last week predicted a 58 percent voter turnout countywide, which would mean about 30,000 ballots cast of 51,808 registered voters. In 2008, about 80 percent of county voters went to the ballot box.

Evidence of voting is available at polling places in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Summers said this afternoon that she didn't believe voter activity has been busier than in 2008. She said some Cape Girardeau city precincts were busier than a normal midterm election, but she still basically stands by her turnout prediction.

"I don't think I'd be surprised by 60 percent," she said. "But any more than that would surprise me."

Voters discussed their decisions, with early reports in Cape Girardeau showing some measure of support for the gambling issue, which would keep a proposal afloat to build a $125 million casino near the city's downtown if the Missouri Gaming Commission grants a license for a Cape Girardeau facility. If voters ultimately reject a casino, then the commission could grant the last license to a casino proposed for St. Louis or Sugar Creek near Kansas City.

Cheryle Ellermann voted at Red Star Baptist Church, just blocks from the proposed casino site. She voted yes.

"I think it would help Cape Girardeau grow," she said. "This area is really depressed and a casino would really help the area."

Marques Binyon also voted yes for the casino, citing jobs as the number one reason. Isle of Capri has said a casino would create 450 new jobs.

"It would be hard to match that number of jobs," he said. Delores Koch said she voted no on the casino, even though her husband voted yes.

"There are a lot of reasons, but I just don't want it for our town," she said.

Voters across Jackson said all of the races and issues on the ballot were important to them, but the proposed quarter-cent sales tax generated the most interest among voters that would speak on the record.

"We're for it. We probably need it," Bessie Tucker said after casting her vote at the New McKendree Methodist Church polling location. Her husband, Norman, also said he supported the tax, especially considering the couple's daughter lives near the proposed east side location.

While no voters wished to go on the record in opposition of the tax, some of its supporters said they were not pleased with the station's location.

"I voted for it. I don't like the location, though. It seems like a mighty poor place to put a fire station," James Ross said. He voted at the First Baptist Church poll.

Ross said Proposition B was another issue that concerned him.

"It's not about dogs. There are idiots in this country that want to control all of the animals and tell farmers what to do. It's about innuendo and not what the vote is supposed to be about," he said.

Election officials at polling locations in the rural areas surrounding Jackson said they are also seeing strong turnout, and many voters point to Proposition B as the reason.

In the race for the 8th District, incumbent Republican Jo Ann Emerson is seeking her ninth term for the U.S. House of Representatives. But her first serious challenger, perhaps ever, Democrat Tommy Sowers is hoping to pull off an upset.

Theresa Robinson, who voted at Cape Girardeau's Precinct 6, said she cast a vote for Sowers.

"I don't think Jo Ann Emerson has done anything for these counties," she said. "Something has to be done. Tommy Sowers will work hard for us. It's time for a change."

But Tom and Lorna Mueller of Cape Girardeau said they both voted for Emerson.

"I think she does a good job for everybody," Lorna Mueller said. "In times like these, we need someone in there with experience."

Southeast Missourian staff writer Melissa Miller contributed to this report.

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