October 1, 2014

Ferguson, St. Louis same-sex marriages illustrate need to vote local

Two stories that have drawn national attention to Missouri this year could serve as reminders to Missourians, no matter how they feel about those stories, of the importance to vote in local government races.

Those with passionate feelings about police procedures stirred by the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the unrest that followed, or about same-sex marriage after the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples by the St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds office, could act on those feelings at the polls. Both are tied directly to locally elected decision makers.

“Local elected officials really have quite a bit of say in how the policies of Jefferson City are implemented,” says Drew Kurlowski, a visiting assistant professor of political science in the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri. “More so, all of the ways that we generally interact with government, whether that’s fire, police, our local roads, our schools; this is all administered at the local level yet we rarely pay attention to these elections.”

Kurlowski says vote counts in local races could be particularly low in November this year.

The only statewide race on the ballot, that for Auditor, doesn’t feature a matchup between the two major parties, and being a mid-term election means there are no key national races that generally bring out more voters.

“We have a lot of constitutional amendments, we have some judge retention on the ballot this year and the further you go down the ballot, the less likely that a voter will actually complete that,” says Kurlowski, describing it as a sort of fatigue. “Even in years when we do have these marquee races, local election turnout is generally low across the board and across the nation.”

During protests that followed the Michael Brown shooting, some set up voter registration tables and encouraged protesters to sign up.  Civil Rights Leader Rev. Al Sharpton encouraged voter registration, saying the region’s 12-percent voter turnout was an “insult to your children.”

The last day to register for the November election is October 8. Find out more about registering to vote here.

New words will cost Missouri counties thousands (AUDIO)

Twenty-one words are going to cost Missouri Counties tens of thousands of dollars.

They’re the words the legislature left out of its ballot title for the early voting proposal that will be on the November ballot.  A state appeals court says early voting will happen “but only if the legislature and the governor appropriate and disburse funds to pay for the increased costs of such voting.”

Election authorities in every county who already had ballots printed, now have to reprint them and include those 21 words.

Atchison County Clerk Suzette Taylor, the president of the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities, has checked the printers who produce ballots throughout the state and has found two-thirds of the November ballots will have to be reprinted–a hard blow to county budgets this late in the year.

Her costs might be as low as $500-$1,000.  But she says the big counties such as Jackson, St. Louis, and Greene could be facing $75,000 to $100,000 in unexpected costs. The state does not reimburse counties for costs of statewide elections.

Taylor calls the situation “terrible” because of the cost and because military ballots start going out today and absentee voting starts Tuesday.

The issue is expected to become the primary topic when her association meets next week.

AUDIO: Taylor interview 4:35

Recount confirms ‘Right to Farm’ amendment’s passage

A recount of the votes cast in August for and against the so-called “Right to Farm” amendment to Missouri’s Constitution is complete, and it confirms the measure did pass. The margin narrowed, from the issue passing by 2,490 votes to 2,375.

The issue was the subject of heavy spending by both proponents and opponents.

Backers say the amendment will guarantee the right to farm and ranch in Missouri and protect that sector of Missouri’s economy, particularly from groups they describe as “out-of-state extremist” organizations who threaten modern farming practices. Opponents say the issue gives too much power to large farming operations and will let them shirk regulations.

Amendment 10 sponsor says Missouri veto session a good lesson for voters

One backer of a proposed change to the state Constitution hopes Missouri voters were paying attention during this week’s veto session.

Representative Todd Richardson (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Todd Richardson (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Poplar Bluff Republican Todd Richardson sponsored the resolution that became Amendment 10 on the November ballot. It would give the state legislature the power to overturn a governor’s decision to withhold money from the state budget, in addition to the power it has now to overturn a governor’s line-item veto in the budget.

Richardson says such authority could play out much like what happened on Wednesday.

“You saw the legislature go through a process of evaluating where state revenue was after the budget was passed and making a decision to override the governor on a number of the line items in the budget that he vetoed,” says Richardson.

See the language of Amendment 10 on the Secretary of State’s website (scroll down)

Richardson says in addition to other differences between a budget veto and a budget withholding, the latter remains a place where he says the balance between the legislative and executive branches is off kilter.

“The one gap in area where the governor has had unchecked power, where nobody has had the ability to put any check on that, is through the governor’s power to withhold,” says Richardson.

He and other critics, mostly Republicans, accuse Democratic Governor Jay Nixon of using budget withholdings, which are not permanent and can be released later, as a way to force the legislature to do what he wants. Such was the criticism last year when Nixon withheld $400-million pending the outcome of an attempt to override his veto of an income tax cut bill. The override attempt failed and the money was later released.

Critics of the amendment, however, say that it would swing the balance of power too far back toward the legislature, because a governor is required to balance the state’s budget; a responsibility the legislature does not share.

Recount starts on Right to Farm Amendment (AUDIO)

The Secretary of State has started a recount of the vote on the Right to Farm Amendment that was narrowly approved by voters earlier this month. The amendment passed 499,581-497,091.  The 2490-vote margin amounts to .24% of the 996,672 total votes.  State law provides for a state-paid recount if the voting difference is .5% or less.

Spokesman Wes Shoemyer of Missouri Food for America, the opposing group, says the recount is being sought as a matter of keeping faith with opponents, noting, “This was a grass roots…effort for us. And I just  think that when people work that hard, not to do everything possible to secure a victory would do a real disservice to politics in the state of Missouri or issues in the state of Missouri or, frankly, the people of the state of Missouri.”

The recounting is done by county clerks who have until September 15 to finish the job. Backers of the Right to Farm Amendment say a recount is futile. Shoemyer says it will only take one vote changed in one-third of the elections’ 3899 could reverse the result.

Five counties had set recount dates within hours of the state’s call for checking of the ballots.  Washington County has scheduled its recount for Aeptember4.  Lincoln, Henry, and Crawford Counties will do their recounts on September 8. Boone County has scheduled five days for its recount: September 4-5 and September 8-10.  All counties must finish their work by September 15.

AUDIO:: Shoemyer interview 3:54