Local races and issues, like fire district and school board as well as tax increase and bond proposals, could be moved from April to later in the year. Some members of the Missouri Legislature have filed bills this session that aim to make the switch.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (file photo courtesy of the Secretary of State’s office)

During a Missouri House Budget Committee hearing this week, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Republican, says he has not taken a position on the idea. However, he says there would be savings if the election was moved from April to November.

“You are not having the cost of all the absentee ballots and ballots that you would have had in April,” says Ashcroft. “You would have roughly the same amount in November, but they might be a little bit longer. So, their costs would increase a little bit. But that’s probably a cost decrease. I think there will be a cost decrease if that were to be done. I cannot tell you that it would be substantial. I find it difficult to believe that there would be a cost increase.”

Representative Peggy McGaugh, R-Carrollton, was the longtime Carroll County Clerk in northwest Missouri. She disagrees that there would be a savings.

She goes on to say she is not a fan of making those election changes.

“I think there is going to be a lot of talk about how difficult it would be to put all those layers and all the different races on one ballot,” says McGaugh.

She says voter fatigue is real.

“That occurs when the ballots are so long,” says McGaugh. “And so, the danger is that the lower-level fire districts and the townships, by the time the people have voted for everybody else up above, they’re done. They’re going walk out without voting. So, I think it’s a real danger to the local entities to put them on partisan ballots.”

State Rep. Peggy McGaugh, R-Carrollton, speaks on the Missouri House floor in Jefferson City on May 13, 2020 (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

House Bill 920, sponsored by Neosho Republican Representative Ben Baker, would change the election day for the election of political subdivision and special district officers to the first Tuesday after the first Monday from April to November each year.

During a hearing about the bill, supporters said local election turnout is historically low and the measure would boost participation.

Opponents of the bill included Matt Morrow, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce; The City of Springfield; Missouri Municipal League; and Missouri Association of School Administrators. One argument made was election workers would be overwhelmed by the change. Another one was county clerks will have difficulty applying all the configuration of ballots that will be necessary to make sure citizens received the correct ballots for their district.

Senate Bill 414, sponsored by Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, has some similar components.

Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, is proposing SJR 5, a Constitutional amendment that would ask voters to move all elections for local tax increases to a general election.

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