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Voters come to the polls with strong opinions about the issues

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 | 11:21 a.m. CDT; updated 12:35 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Proposed amendments to Missouri's Constitution were among the issues that drew Boone County voters to the polls Tuesday.

*CORRECTION: Voters were at the polls Tuesday morning.

Missourian reporters headed to the polls early Tuesday morning to talk to voters preparing to cast their ballots in the primary election. Here's what was on their minds.

Lenoir Community Center, 3710 S. Lenoir St.

Jen Davis was at Lenoir Community Center early Tuesday attempting to persuade voters to defeat the "Right to Farm" amendment.

Holding a sign that read "Vote no on Amendment One: Protect family farms, protect the environment," she greeted voters with a cheerful "Good morning!"

“Please stand up for family farmers like me and my family and vote no to Amendment 1," she urged them.

Davis, a fourth-generation farmer, has family that owns land in Prairie Home, and she has a small garden in Boonville.

“It’s called the ‘Right to Farm,’ but it isn’t truly about family farmers and true Missouri farmers," she explained. "It’s geared toward standing up for large corporate factory farms."

As of 8:50 a.m., 148 people had already voted. Some of them had already made up their minds and didn't need Davis to convince them.

“You already got us,” a man said as he walked in with his wife.

“I’m with ya,” a woman said as she gave Davis a thumbs up.

— Michael Alvey

Ashland Baptist Church, 203 E. Broadway, Ashland

Jerry S. Nichols, 65, of Ashland, came to the polls Tuesday* morning to throw his support behind the proposed transportation sales tax, the farming amendment and the right to bear arms.

His one stated objection was to the initiative that would provide the bulk of money raised via sales tax for the Central Missouri Events Center, formerly the Boone County Fairgrounds, and the rest to local parks.

"It's a rip-off under the disguise of saving the fairgrounds," Nichols said.

Tim Popejoy, 52, who lives in Ashland and works for Ameren Missouri, said he felt most passionate about the sewer bond for Ashland because he owns a lot of properties and without the bond, taxes would go up.

Approving the bond issue would allow the city to bring its sewage system up to code before fines are levied because of non-compliance with state Department of Natural Resources regulations.

Popejoy also weighed in on Amendment 1. He said he was against the amendment because farmers already have the right to farm.

"You haven't heard anything about it before," Popejoy said about the proposal. "Why all the fuss now?"

— Michelle Todd

First Church of the Nazarene, 2601 Blue Ridge Road, and Grace Bible Church, 601 Blue Ridge Road

The polling place at First Church of the Nazarene on Blue Ridge Road had tallied about 45 voters by 8 a.m. Tuesday, and election official Martin Hardin estimated they would see about 600 voters by the end of the day.

Among the early 45 voters was 44-year-old Larry Dorman, who came out to vote against all the proposed amendments.

Pointing to the veterans lottery ticket, Dorman said he feared the government would do what it did with education. One argument against the initiative is that the legislature could rely on lottery funding to take care of state services.  

At Grace Bible Church, voter Dan Hartgrove, 37, also strongly objected to all of the amendments.

The farming proposal was one of his targets: “I feel that it's going to allow big foreign corporations to come in and destroy local farms,” he said. “There’s no evidence it’ll protect local farmers.”

Chris Kanapkey, 48, voted at Grace Bible Church around 7:15 a.m. “to be a true American and to do my duty by voting,” he said.

Kanapkey said he was in favor of the transportation sales tax because he wants to see the road improvements. He also voted for the veterans lottery ticket, saying, “I have family in the military and I want them to have the resources they need.”

Patty Purves, 61, said she had concerns about the "Right to Farm" and transportation sales tax amendments after she voted at Grace Bible Church around 7:30 a.m.

She said the language in the farm proposal was poorly worded and misleading, but her main concern was the impact on the environment. As for the sales tax, she said if it passed, it would be unfair to people with low incomes and would give an “advantage to truckers who will not be paying.”

Justin Brown, 31, said he had a problem with the way the "Right-to-Farm" amendment was written: “It was worded poorly to intentionally confuse people.”

Aside from the wording, Brown also said he did not see it as a good reason to amend the constitution.

“What is it about farmers that’s any more important than any other profession in the state?” he said.

Rachel Jelinek

Activity and Recreation Center at 1701 W. Ash St.

More than 100 people had voted at the Activity and Recreation Center's polling place by 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to the election officials staffing the site.

Amanda Sprochi, 47, a librarian at the MU Health Sciences Library, said she voted "no" on the "Right to Farm" amendment because "the only people I really see getting anything out of this are lawyers. I don't really see the point in the whole thing.

"There already is no impediment to farming in Missouri," Sprochi said. "These farm bills have been introduced across the country ... They are basically trying to take away all environmental regulations so businesses can do whatever they want."

Sprochi also said she frequents the Columbia Farmers Market, and the local farmers were encouraging people to vote against the proposal.

Mike Sullivan, 49, a technology manager at MU, said most of the amendments were worded in complicated and unnecessary ways, specifically the farming initiative.

"The agriculture amendment was a joke," he said. "It was basically a giant scam for large-scale farming."

Sullivan said he opposed the gun and electronic surveillance initiatives because they are issues that should be handled at the federal level.

"The right to bear arms is already covered by the federal Constitution," Sullivan said. "That's pretty much the same with the electronic privacy [amendment]. They just can't get their act together as far as things that are largely covered by federal statutes."

Sullivan said he wished he'd seen more voters at the Activity and Recreation Center.

"I can't believe the turnout was this small this morning," he said. "There are a lot of issues."

Dustin McGowen, 27, a delivery specialist at Bob McCosh Chevrolet, said his main purpose for voting Tuesday was to support Nora Dietzel in the recorder of deeds primary.

"I've seen signs and commercials for her, and I really identified with her," McGowen said. "She's been involved with the recorder's office previously, and I wanted to make sure she got the job."

He said when it came to voting for the constitutional amendments, he considered himself "anti-tax."

"If the city wants to build parks or the state wants to build roads or if we want to create some kind of lottery ticket, the legislature will do that," McGowen said. "Every time, I'm going to vote against a tax. I don't need more of my paycheck going toward something that I'm not personally buying into."

— James Nosek

Paquin Tower, 1201 Paquin St.

The prevailing sentiment at the polls in Paquin Tower on Tuesday morning was opposition to the "Right to Farm" amendment. Citizens also voiced considerable displeasure with Amendment 7, variously calling it "the sales tax," "the road tax" and "MoDOT's tax."

"I'm a farm girl, and we already have the right to farm," said Elizabeth Peters. "I don't want anymore government interference."

Luke Buffaloe said he voted against it, and his wife, Barbara, agreed.

"I voted against the amendment out of concern for the environment and small local farms," he said.

Raeona Nichols said she always votes, and she had serious concerns about the proposed farming amendment.

"I'm worried about opening the state of Missouri to factory farms," she said.

Laura Turner was visiting a resident of Paquin Tower in the morning and said she would vote later in the day. She was opposed to both the farming and transportation sales tax proposals.

"I don't want any more taxes, and I want the farmers to have the right to decide what to do with their land," Turner said.

Kat Ali, a resident of Paquin Tower, said she never voted, in part because she felt that politicians didn't care about her opinion.

"I don't vote because it doesn't do any good," Ali said. "If you're not a millionaire, your opinions don't matter, so why vote?"

Robin Fox, Ali's next-door neighbor, said she was going to vote and was most concerned about the lottery ticket.

"We don't do enough for the veterans in the United States," Fox said.

Richard Baumann, a professor at Columbia College, said he voted against the countywide sales tax for parks because it pitted the county against the city.

Ruth Tofle, an MU professor, said she voted in favor of the proposition "for the betterment of the community."

An election judge said 56 people had voted at Paquin Tower as of 9:30 a.m., up from 27 at 8:15 a.m.

William Schmitt

Columbia Public Library, West Broadway and Garth Avenue

At the public library, Randy Gray, 52, called both the farm amendment and the transportation sales tax poor public policy.

“Especially the road tax because trucks cause 80 percent of the damage, and they have been let off with a free ride,” he said.

Antique dealer Melissa Williams, 63, gave a big thumbs-down to the "Right to Farm" proposition.

“It is sponsored by corporations who are trying to trick us into voting away our right to sue them,” she said.

Susan Melton, 66, agreed.  “The language of the ('Right to Farm') amendment is misleading,” she said. “It implies something I don’t think is quite true.”

Matt Mosby, 49, who works at Veterans United, said he tries to vote in every election as his civic duty and supported the transportation sales tax as a way to improve highway infrastructure.

“I think Missouri roads could use the extra funding in improvements,” he said.

Sarah Cramer, 25, a member of Americorps, said she was bothered by the vague language of the farm amendment and called it confusing to voters.

"All the information we're getting is extremely biased and based on the interest of those spending the money," Cramer said.

— Joyce Peng

Fairview Road Church of Christ, 201 S. Fairview Road, and Fairview United Methodist Church, 3200 Chapel Hill Road

The "Right to Farm" constitutional amendment was top of mind at the Fairview Road Church of Christ polling station Tuesday morning.

A steady stream of voters had filed in and out of the church by 8:30 a.m.

"It's a little bit more active, and I think it's because of the amendments," said Don Mueller, an election judge at the polling location.

Volunteer Kim Watkins was standing in front of the church to protest Amendment 1 through the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. Watkins said she had been handing out literature outside the church since polls opened at 6 a.m., and many were receptive to her message.

"There are lots of people on small farms that are hardworking and don't have time to go out and fight 'Right to Farm'," she said.

Alan Wessler, a veterinarian, said he turned out to vote because it's a right and a responsibility. Wessler said supporting Amendment 1 was particularly important.

"I believe the family farmer deserves amendment protection," he said.

As a veterinarian, Wessler said he works with farm and ranch families who are trying to pass the family business along to their children. To see them fight this amendment is ridiculous, he said.

Teacher Teri Christiansen said she voted against the farm and gun amendments. She said she didn't like the idea of protection for farmers in the state constitution, and the right to bear arms amendment seemed unnecessary.

Sidney Thorpe, who is retired, said she always makes sure to vote. Tuesday she came out in support of  the "Right to Farm" and the highway tax amendments.

"We need the road tax," she said. "Some of the bridges I go across are terrifying."

Down the road, the Fairview United Methodist Church polling place was also busy.

Attorney Mike Campbell said amendments 1, 5 and 7 were important, especially the transportation sales tax.

"We need to do something about our roads and infrastructure," he said.

— Lauren Rutherford

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.


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