Election turnout not expected to be high

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Tuesday's election marks the first time in nearly a quarter-century a race for governor, U.S. Senate or president will not be featured in Missouri's general election.

Some election authorities say the lack of high-profile races might affect voter turnout.

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander announced Friday that 39.81 percent of Missouri's registered voters are predicted to turn out for the election, based on estimates from election authorities in each county. If that percentage is correct, more than 1.6 million votes will be cast.

Local turnout

It's not easy to make a prediction on voter turnout, said Cape Girardeau County Clerk Kara Clark Summers. People vote for different reasons -- some may feel passionately about a candidate, and others may have strong feelings about a question on the ballot.

"You never know," said Clark Summers. "You're always hopeful for a large turnout."

Her office and all of the county's poll workers are prepared for such a scenario, but Clark Summers said she's not sure that will be the case. She initially estimated the county's voter turnout to be as high as 53 percent, but said she recently lowered that number to in the mid- to high 40s. It's likely polls in the city of Cape Girardeau will be busy because of the ballot question to renew the fire sales tax, she said.

In Perry County, County Clerk Randy Taylor estimates 5,700 of 11,759 voters will turn out, which would be nearly 48.5 percent. The county has only one local contested race, as two men vie for associate circuit judge.

Scott County Clerk Rita Milam's voter turnout estimate came in lower, at 25 percent.

Contested races

Most of the county offices up for election this year saw fierce races in the August primary among Republican candidates, leaving little action for the general election. Among Cape Girardeau, Scott, Bollinger and Perry counties, only four races for county offices are contested.

Incumbent Republican Clint Tracy faces Democratic challenger Pat Wissman for Cape Girardeau County presiding commissioner.

The incumbent for Scott County presiding commissioner, Democrat Jamie Burger, also faces opposition, with Republican Will Yates hoping to take his place.

In Bollinger County, Democrat Ronald Davis is hoping to unseat Republican Presiding Commissioner Travis Elfrink.

An open seat in Perry County has independent candidate Craig Brewer and Jason Tilley hoping to be the next associate circuit judge.

Local voters will determine their next Missouri House representative. In the 145th District, incumbent Republican Shelley Keeney faces opposition from Democrat Charles Elrod.

Voters have three options in the 147th District, with Democrat Gary Gaines and Libertarian Greg Tlapek hoping to unseat Republican Kathy Swan.

The question of the 8th District's next U.S. House of Representative seat will be on the ballot as well. Republican Jason Smith is running for re-election against Democrat Barbara Stocker, Libertarian Rick Vandeven, independent candidate Terry Hampton and Constitution Party candidate Doug Enyart.

The only statewide race on the ballot is for state auditor. Constitution Party candidate Rodney Farthing and Libertarian Sean O'Toole are running against incumbent Republican Tom Schweich.

Ballot issues

There are four constitutional amendment questions on the ballot.

* Constitutional Amendment 2: This proposed amendment could change the way sexual crimes are prosecuted in Missouri. If approved, it would allow evidence of previous criminal acts to be admissible in court in prosecutions of sex crimes involving a victim younger than 18. Whether the suspected sex offender had been charged or sentenced, accusations of sexual crimes involving children still would be admissible.

Some prosecuting attorney and law enforcement groups have indicated their support for the measure, while civil-rights groups have expressed concern. Others, including the Missouri Association for Social Welfare, have chosen not to take a stance on the issue. At the first meeting of the MASW Cape Girardeau Chapter last week, the association's executive director, Jeanette Mott Oxford, said it's "complicated" and easy to see both sides of the issue.

"It's a dangerous thing they're trying to do" by making accusations admissible in court, she said, and yet abused children are often isolated when the incident takes place, making them the only witness to the crime.

* Constitutional Amendment 3: The measure would tie teacher evaluations to student performance and limit future teaching contracts to three years, among other things. School boards across the state, including some in Cape Girardeau and Scott counties, have come out in opposition to the amendment.

* Constitutional Amendment 6: If approved, the amendment would allow for six days of early voting. The measure has been favored by many state Republicans because it requires the state to pick up the tab, saving counties from finding funds for any additional costs. Secretary of State Jason Kander is among many Democrats opposed to the measure, which he said will prevent only limited opportunities for early voting because the measure allows it to take place only on weekdays and during regular office hours.

* Constitutional Amendment 10: The measure would give the state Legislature the power to "provide a legislative check" on the governor's decision to withhold money from the state budget, according to ballot language. Some consider the amendment a way to prevent the governor from abusing his withholding power, while others worry it could throw the state's budget off balance.

* Cape Girardeau fire sales tax: In June 2004, voters approved a quarter-cent fire sales tax. Half of the tax is ongoing, and the other half reaches its sunset this year. The city is asking voters to renew that one-eighth-cent portion for 21 years. The Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce and the Cape Girardeau County Board of Realtors support the tax, while the local group No MO Tax opposes it.

Polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Voters can find the address of their polling place, view a sample ballot and learn what type of identification to bring at GoVoteMissouri.com.



Voter turnout expectations

* Cape Girardeau County: 45 to 49 percent

* Perry County: 48.4 percent

* Scott County: 25 percent

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