Young voters help drive high turnout, Obama victory in Missouri

Thursday, February 7, 2008 | 8:00 p.m. CST; updated 7:05 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 8, 2008

COLUMBIA — A surge of young voters helped propel Democrat Barack Obama to victory in Tuesday’s state primary and may have been a key factor in the high turnout.

Voter turnout in Boone County for the primary was more than double the 2004 primary turnout. This year, a total of 41,877 voters cast ballots in the county, according to the Secretary of State’s Web site. About 15,700 ballots were cast in the 2004 primary.

Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren said she noticed an increase in participation among the county’s young voters. Her office will compile voter demographics in the coming weeks, she said.

There was also an increase in the number of younger volunteers working at polling places, she added.

“We had a huge number of young people volunteer, which is a huge anomaly in this country,” Noren said. “Our older workers love it.”

The large turnout was also due, in part, to the nature of this year’s presidential race, Noren said.

High turnouts were reported across Missouri. Some of the voters contributing to this trend were participating in a primary for the first time.

Clint McMillen, 28, voted in the primary this year, but said he did not take part in the 2004 primary.

“I just wasn’t really aware of the primary process, being relatively young,” he said.

McMillen said he and his wife, Anna, were motivated to vote because of their dissatisfaction with the current president.

“That’s been the source of our excitement,” he said.

Nate Kennedy, president of the College Democrats of Missouri, also noted the increase in young voters.

“It’s the issues that are bringing the young people out, and the message of hope,” Kennedy said.

With so many active college students, he said, Boone and St. Louis county votes helped Obama overtake Hillary Clinton in the late stages of the primary coverage.

“We definitely turned out the winning margin for Obama,” Kennedy said.

As results rolled in across the country on election night, Boone County’s results lagged behind other Missouri counties. Both Boone and St. Louis counties were not fully reported until late into the evening.

While Clinton appeared to have a majority in Missouri for most of the night, Obama won the two counties with a margin that was enough to put him on top in the tallies for the state.

The Republican race ended up just as tight in Missouri, with McCain narrowly edging out Romney for the win, though Romney took Boone County. Romney dropped out of the presidential race earlier today.

Noren recognized that while Boone County may have been a bit behind in reporting results, the delay was due to efforts to ensure accuracy. Her office employs practices other counties do not in order to check totals, she said.

“They aren’t requirements,” Noren said. “They are the steps you should take to have as few corrections after the election as possible.”

These measures include reconciling the number of votes recorded by the ballot machines with the number listed on the voter registries. She said the process is time-consuming, which accounts for part of the delay in Boone County’s report.

Most counties do this cross-checking in the weeks following the election, Noren said.

The clerk’s office also dealt with over 2,000 changes of address on the day of the primary, she said.

Voters must alert the clerk if their address has changed before they can vote, and many residents did not do this before Tuesday. Almost 5 percent of the people who showed up at polling places had to register a new address, then vote at a different location, Noren said.

Because the staff dealt with such issues during the day, they started counting votes later than expected that evening.

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