Voter turnout low overall, higher among students

Many students also volunteered to be poll workers.
Voters line up to cast their votes for the municipal election Tuesday at the Activity and Recreation Center. Total turnout for the election was about 25,023 voters.

Slightly fewer voters than anticipated cast ballots citywide in Tuesday's election, but more students than expected participated.

Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren said she expected 28,000 people to vote Tuesday, but only 25,023 of the county's 93,970 registered voters cast ballots, a turnout of about 26 percent.

Turnout at polling places close to campus was lower than in many parts of the city, but Noren said it was higher than it usually is for municipal elections.

"Actually, for an April election, we had a great turnout," she said. "It was one of the highest in recent years."

Columbia's First Ward, which encompasses the northern part of the MU campus, had an average turnout of 19.8 percent. The Sixth Ward, which includes East Campus and many student-dominated apartment complexes in southeast Columbia, saw slightly less voters, with 17.6 percent turnout.

Harold Miederhoff, a poll worker at Paquin Tower, said many more students had cast ballots there than he expected for a city election.

"There were more students than I anticipated for a local election, but I think it was because of the security cameras," he said.

MU senior Gretchen Maune, who voted at Paquin Tower, said she voted because she felt the election of retiring Mayor Darwin Hindman's successor would strongly affect the city.

Noren said she had expected the citywide turnout to be about 10 percent higher. She had anticipated numbers to be higher because of the mayoral election and Proposition 1, an initiative about installing safety cameras in the downtown area.

"It wasn't as much as I thought it would be," Noren said. "Things kind of slowed down last weekend and Monday."

More votes were cast on Proposition 1 than any of the other five initiatives on the ballot, but Noren said it was impossible to determine if voters had shown up only to vote on that issue.

After casting his ballot at Campus Lutheran Church on College Avenue, MU senior Zach Bentley said that was what he had done.

"I just came to vote on the camera issue," said Bentley. "I didn't know a lot about the other propositions, so I just left them blank."

In addition to high turnout among students as voters, Noren said about 40 percent of Tuesday's poll workers were students. She said many had been recruited through MU with the help of federal grants for the 2008 presidential election and returned for city elections, earning between $150 and $200 for the day's work.

Noren said she hoped more students would help work the polls for the Congressional elections in November because she plans to introduce electronic poll books to replace paper sheets where voters sign in before they vote.

"Most of the older workers are hesitant about working with that technology and getting it set up," Noren said. "These student workers who come out are just heaven-sent in terms of helping us out."

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