Low voter turnout projection attributed to uninterested voters
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Low voter turnout projection attributed to uninterested voters

Date: November 3, 2014
By: Jill Ornitz
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Nearly three out of five Missourians won't be headed to the polls on election day, according to Secretary of State Jason Kander.

According to Kander, election authorities predicted 39.81 percent of Missourians will actually turn out to vote. If that estimate holds true, more than 1.6 million votes will be cast in the state.

The Secretary of State's office predicts a state-wide voter turnout by compiling estimates of voter turnout from each individual county. The counties use a combination of past voter turnout and absentee ballots to estimate what percentage of the voting population in their county will turn out to vote.

According to Mary Wall, deputy director of the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners the estimated voter turnout is an educated guess. The county uses context to determine why past election turnout hit certain levels, including whether contested amendments were on a ballot during a certain election year.

According to Marvin Overby, a political science professor at the University of Missouri, this year's election isn't controversial enough to draw out voters.

"It's simple," Overby said. "Voters respond to competitive, high-profile elections and there just aren't any of those on the ballot."

Bob Nichols, the Democratic director of the Jackson County Election Board, said the estimates take into account whether ballot measures actually drive citizens to the polls and looks at non-contest elections in the county. He also said the county tends to provide lower estimates when it comes to voter turnout.

Overby said the state's estimated voter turnout is generous.

"39 percent may be an optimistic guess," Overby said. "I think in many parts of the state, the numbers may actually be much lower because in so many parts of the state, you don't even have competitive state legislature races going on."

Due to a lack of high-profile races and interest in this election's ballot items, Overby said voters don't even recognize the names on the ballot.

"If you don't have those campaigns going on, voters just tend to be much more disengaged because there are not offices on the ballot that they care that much about," Overby said. "And there are not names on the ballot that they know that much about."

In 2010, Missouri had a statewide voter turnout of 47 percent, according to the Secretary of State's office. The 2014 election marks the first in recent memory in which a statewide office saw no challenger, with only Tom Schweich running for state auditor.

Of the amendments on the November ballot, what could  have been one of the most hotly contested was a ballot to eliminate teacher tenure in favor of performance evaluations. The group behind the ballot initiative disbanded in September. Others include a measures to allow prior criminal history to be used as evidence in cases of child sex abuse and measures allowing people to vote six business days before the election.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.

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