Elections not only settle issues, they also signal trends regarding both government and the governed.
The indicators from Tuesday’s primary are more disturbing than encouraging.
Issues defeated on both the state and county levels indicate government continues to suffer credibility problems.
Cole County voters rejected a proposal to adopt zoning. The proposal would have entrusted the county’s governing body, the three-member commission, with implementing a zoning plan that reflected about four years of work by county officials and committees.
Statewide, voters turned back a constitutional amendment to enact a three-quarter cent, 10-year sales tax for transportation. Tax increases typically face uphill battles and, in this case, the transition away from user-based financing likely fueled opposition.
Nevertheless, the specter of past failures by state transportation officials to follow through on promised improvements looms as a contributing factor in Tuesday’s defeat.
In contrast, Missouri voters approved issues of individual empowerment. Farmers will enjoy constitutional protections, the right to bear arms will be guaranteed by the state constitution and personal privacy will be extended to digital communications.
The abundance of constitutional amendments also is an indicator that statewide votes increasingly are replacing lawmaking by elected representatives.
Which brings us to the second disturbing trends.
Although vital issues are being decided more and more by statewide votes, turnout remains dismal.
Voter turnout statewide was less than 25 percent, below the predicted 27 percent. Similarly, Cole County’s 31 percent voter turnout Tuesday fell short of the anticipated 34 percent. (In Boone County, the turnout was 29.8 percent)
Tuesday’s paltry turnout means majorities in the range of 13 percent of voters decide close issues, including the narrow approval of the Right to Farm amendment, in unofficial results.
We permit continuation of these trends — government that lacks credibility and an apathetic electorate — at our peril.
Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.