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Government, Politics & Issues

St. Louis County's Absentee Votes Lag Behind 2010 Pace

Vote here sign
File photo | Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon

Despite declarations of heightened voter interest, St. Louis County’s absentee tallies so far hint at a far lower turnout than in 2010, the last non-presidential statewide election.

County Democratic Elections Director Rita Days reports that 9,698 people had cast absentee ballots at the close of business Saturday. That pace signals that the county won’t reach its 2010 absentee tally of 25,225.

"I don’t think we’re going to make that number,’’ Days said Tuesday. “It looks like a stretch.”

Absentee balloting will continue until 5 p.m., Mon., Nov. 3.  The county's election headquarters in Maplewood also will be open on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  In Missouri, people can cast an absentee vote only if they meet certain criteria -- such as not being in their home county on Election Day, which is Tues., Nov. 4.

Days declined to make any predictions for voter turnout next week. She said her staff is still working on it.

Election in 2010 sparked more interest

In 2010, also a non-presidential election year, Days said, Missouri voters were more energized by a spirited contest for the U.S. Senate, won handily by Republican Roy Blunt, who defeated Democrat Robin Carnahan. The state auditor’s contest also was combative, with Republican Tom Schweich ousting the incumbent Susan Montee, a Democrat.

But that GOP wave – which carried more Republicans into the General Assembly – had limited reach in St. Louis County. County Executive Charlie Dooley, a Democrat, narrowly defeated Republican challenger Bill Corrigan.

And county voters helped re-elect Democrat Russ Carnahan to his last term in Congress before his district was eliminated in 2011 when the state lost a congressional seat.

In any case, Days said, this year’s countywide contests – notably for county executive – haven’t energized as many voters as in 2010 when about 55 percent of the county's voters turned out.

This year, the candidates for St. Louis County executive are Democrat Steve Stenger, who ousted Dooley in the August primary, and Republican Rick Stream.  Also on the ballot are Libertarian Theo Brown and Constitution Party candidate Joe Passanise.

So far, there are two official write-ins for the post: Zaki Baruti and Willita Bush.  Days said that another woman has sought to become a write-in candidate but declined to fill out the proper paperwork. The board is consulting with its attorneys about the status of her candidacy, Days said.

New voter registrations this year also have been lower than what some had predicted after the Ferguson police shooting of Aug. 9 sparked protests and unrest.

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