COLUMBIA — All the clamor surrounding the 2010 campaign will conclude Tuesday as an estimated 60,000 Boone County citizens join voters across the state and nation to cast ballots in the general election.
Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren made her turnout projection Friday based on the number of absentee ballots cast and the number of new voters registered. Noren said both numbers are up significantly from the 2006 midterm elections, when 58,175 county residents voted. Population growth might also make for a larger turnout, she said.
She's prepared for a busy day. “We had 52 (polling places) in April and August. We’re up to 79 now,” she said.
Although that should speed things up at the polls, it can confuse people about where to vote, especially if they’ve changed addresses.
“The biggest problem for voters is they don’t file a change of address before they go to a polling place,” Noren said. “If they go to the old polling place, they have to do a change of address and go to the new polling place.”
Noren emphasized that voters should check their polling place on the election notices they receive in the mail. Not receiving a notice is “a sign they should go to our website,” Noren said. Those without Internet access should call the clerk’s office at 886-4375.
The U.S. Senate race is likely to be the key draw for voters, Noren said. Columbia voters also will decide whether to extend a sales tax for parks and whether to ban the use of Tasers in the city.
Boone County voters will choose a new presiding commissioner, elect or help elect representatives in five Missouri House districts and cast ballots in the 9th District congressional race.
Statewide, voters will cast ballots on three constitutional amendments, the state auditor's race and two propositions, including Proposition B, which calls for new rules for dog-breeding operations.
In the city, Tom Mendenhall of the Friends of Columbia's Parks committee said he's optimistic about Proposition 1, which asks voters to extend for five years a one-eighth-cent sales tax for parks that's scheduled to expire in March.
“I feel pretty good about it. I don’t see any negativity,” Mendenhall said.
The committee was formed by Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid to promote the ballot issue. Mendenhall said members have spoken to civic clubs, written e-mails to neighborhood associations and created radio ads.
Committee member Meredith Donaldson also expressed confidence.
“I’ve been talking to friends and neighbors and even people in the grocery line,” Donaldson said. “We had a few naysayers at the beginning. Right now, generally, when I talk to people, they’re favorable.”
The more contentious issue, perhaps, is Proposition 2, which would ban the use of Tasers and similar devices in the city. Neither police nor private citizens would be able to use or threaten to use Tasers.
The proposition was placed on the ballot by initiative petition. Law enforcement agencies oppose the ban, but the group People for a Taser-Free Columbia hopes a grass-roots campaign has persuaded people to pass it.
“It’s a neighbor-by-neighbor campaign. We’ve visited 2,000 homes,” member Mary Hussmann said. “We’re not going for tit for tat with the Police Department. It’s not our style or a winning strategy or what we believe.”
Secretary of State Robin Carnahan predicted Tuesday that 2.1 million people, or 51 percent of Missouri’s 4.1 million registered voters, will cast ballots on Election Day. She based that estimate on a compilation of projections from the state's 116 election authorities. Carnahan, a Democrat, is also running against Republican Congressman Roy Blunt and two third-party candidates for the U.S. Senate seat.
At polling places in Boone County, a new tool will help speed up the voting process. Laptops equipped with scanners, first used here in the August primary, will match bar codes on voters' ID cards and drivers licenses to the names and addresses of registered voters. Noren said the system is faster and more accurate than finding a voter’s name in a book.
Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. A sample ballot is available on the Boone County Clerk's website.
The Missourian’s Voters Guide lists races, candidate biographies, propositions and amendments, as well as information on how to vote.