The final ballot for the general election on April 3rd is still being finalized, but despite the large number of prospective candidate in St. Joseph’s general election, the number of voters that came out to the polls were slightly underwhelming.
Buchanan County Clerk Mary Baack-Garvey was disappointed, but not surprised by the low number of voters that participated in Tuesday's election.
“We hit right around 15 percent yesterday, so that was a lot better than I expected. I expected 10 percent,” Garvey said.
Only 15 percent of registered voters participated in the election, and while there was no clear indicator for why the voter turnout was so low, the number of active voters is on the rise from the last municipal primary in 2014.
According to the records of the Buchanan County Clerk, the total number of registered voters actively participating in the 2014 primary was 3,627 voters, approximately 7.8 percent compared to the 6,675 votes (15.47 percent) of votes cast on Tuesday.
“Four years ago, when there was a previous primary for local elections, the turnout was between eight and nine percent. So it’s almost doubled. One of the challenges of looking at turnout, and this is a challenge for every election in the United States, is turnout is definitely low, but you also have to look at the trends,” Missouri Western State University Professor of Political Science Melinda Kovács said.
Despite the lower percentage of active voters in the primary, the slight increase has Kovacs feeling optimistic about public involvement in local elections.
“Fifteen percent of the population of St. Joseph is deciding who is going to be on the general election ballot in April. Yet at the same time in the St. Joseph context, we’ve seen a growth of interest, a growth of willingness to show up and vote. I think we have seen a growth in competitiveness,”Kovács said.
Now that the primary is over, Garvey is preparing for a quick turnaround as they prepare for the general election in April.
“April is the one I’m concerned about right now and I hope with the school board members being on the ballot, along with the city and mayor members on the ballot, that should increase turnout, I would hope,” Garvey said.
With the popularity of politics revolving around the school board elections as well as the mayoral and city council races, Garvey is anticipating voter turnout to be at least 20 percent for the general election. Absentee voting for the general election on April 3, will begin Tuesday, February 20.