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.