State officials estimate that some 72 percent of the more than 4.1 million
registered voters in Missouri will cast ballots for the Nov. 6 vote. That would
be a higher rate of participation than in 2008, when a record 69 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
Those numbers are based on estimates sent in from election authorities in all of the state’s 115 counties and St. Louis City. Election boards and county clerks base their predictions on the number of absentee ballots requested, turnouts from previous elections and their reading of how interested voters are in local propositions and candidates.
Actual turnout numbers in next Tuesday's vote might differ from the numbers forecasted this week. In the days before the 2008 election, the Secretary of State's office had projected about 76 percent of voters would cast ballots.
If the Secretary of State’s projections do hold true, a much larger number of Missouri voters will cast ballots next week than did in the November election two years ago, when 46.8 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
Stacie Temple, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, said higher turnouts are not unusual for quadrennial elections and said the presence of statewide candidates and statewide measures on this year's ballot might be stoking voter interest.
"Certainly, there's a lot more interest in a presidential year than there is in an off year," Temple said. "I think there's a lot of interest in the election right now and perhaps that's one of the considerations local election authorities had in making those predictions."
Missouri does not have early voting, which has fueled predictions of higher turnout in other states. But Temple said increases in the number of absentee ballots being requested at the local level might also be driving the predictions of increased participation.
Statistics from the Secretary of State's office show that turnout figures vary widely among counties in the state. Osage County, located in the central part of the state, saw the highest turnout in the state in 2010, with more than 60 percent of its voters casting ballots and it also had one of the highest turnout numbers statewide in the 2008 election.
Osage County Clerk Patrick Steele said that political attitudes in the area trend Republican, but that some races are made competitive by the personalities of the candidates involved more than ideology. The county also has many residents who commute to the capital city for work, which he said generates interest in elections.
"We have a lot of voters who work in Jeff City, a lot of them for the state government, that's part of it, and there's generally a lot of interest in what's going on," he said.Further south, in Butler County, turnout has been among the lowest in the state in the last two general elections. In 2008, a year when Missouri was considered a swing state in a heated open contest for the U.S. presidency, Butler County saw just 52.69 percent of its voters cast ballots. County Clerk Tonyi Deffendall said politics there are strongly Republican, which can dampen interest in local elections, even if national contests come down to the wire. She said that effect can be even more magnified in years without presidential races, such as 2010.
"On the off years, on local elections, there's several offices that have been unopposed," she said.
Polls will be open Tuesday, Nov. 6 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.