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Missouri voter turnout at 65.7 percent, less than 2008

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 | 5:36 p.m. CST

KANSAS CITY — Missouri voters voted in big numbers in this year's election but not as big as in 2008, according to figures released Wednesday.

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's office said 2.7 million people, or 65.7 percent of voters, turned out for Tuesday's general election. Both the raw number and the percentage were down from 2008, when a record 2.9 million voters, or 69.4 percent, went to the polls.

Turnout fell short of the 72 percent that had been projected by Carnahan based on a compilation of predictions from the 116 local election authorities around the state. Missouri has 4.2 million registered voters.

"At the end of the day, though, that was still great turnout," Stacie Temple, Carnahan's spokeswoman, said.

A few scattered problems were reported. A machine at a Kansas City polling place repeatedly rejected paper ballots. A legally blind voter in Kansas City told KSHB-TV that her precinct had no provision to help her vote and she felt violated by having to dictate her choices.

In St. Louis County, voters faced some long lines. Rita Heard Days, Democratic director of elections for the county, said lines were three hours long for a while at a church in the northern part of the county. When election officials became aware of the problem they stepped in to help judges move the lines more quickly, she said.

The county also ran out of paper ballots at a precinct at Washington University, delaying college-age voters for about an hour. And Days was aware of one voter turned away because of inadequate identification.

On the plus side, she said, election judges were able to accommodate more senior citizens with curbside voting — judges from both parties go to the curb to help the disabled vote from their car — and teams of judges even went to hospitals to help patients cast ballots.

"Overall, it was a very good day," Day said. "I think we hit the mark."

Turnout ranged from highs of 72.4 percent in mid-Missouri's Osage County and 72.3 percent in St. Charles County to a low of 52.6 percent in Sullivan County. Turnout was high in the state's two largest counties — St. Louis County (68.7 percent) and Jackson County (70.5 percent).

Missouri's drop in turnout mirrored what happened across the country. With 97 percent of precincts reporting by midday Wednesday, nearly 119 million people had voted in the presidential race. Though that number will increase as more votes are counted, it won't reach the 131 million ballots cast in 2008. Part of the decrease nationally was blamed on Superstorm Sandy. Fifteen percent fewer ballots were counted in New York and 10 percent fewer in New Jersey.

Along with helping choose a president, Missouri voters decided two high-profile statewide races and a well-publicized ballot measure.

Missouri residents favored Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama. But Democrats prevailed in the other top-of-the-ticket races: Incumbent Gov. Jay Nixon beat GOP businessman Dave Spence, and incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill soundly defeated Republican challenger Todd Akin in a race that drew national scrutiny after Akin's comments about "legitimate rape" in September.

Meanwhile, voters narrowly defeated a measure to raise taxes on tobacco products.

Still, Days sensed this year's election didn't have quite the same appeal as four years ago.

"I don't think the enthusiasm was there like it was in 2008," she said. "You never know how the folks are feeling or what their hot-button issues are."


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