Apathy, indecision reign in mid-Missouri

Only a 23% turnout is expected in the primary today
Tuesday, February 3, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:11 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

Walk around town and ask folks how they plan to vote in today’s primary, and there’s one answer you’ll get more than any other.

Not at all.

Interviews with central Missourians over the past few days produced such a wide array of opinions among likely voters that there could be no firm prediction on which Democratic presidential hopeful might emerge as the local victor in today’s primary. Some like John Kerry, who polls project will be the eventual winner in Missouri. Others side with Howard Dean, or John Edwards, or Wesley Clark.

Most, however, said they won’t bother going to the polls. That’s not surprising, given Missouri Secretary of State Matt Blunt’s prediction that only 23 percent of the state’s registered voters will cast ballots today.

“I didn’t even know there was a primary,” said Joseph Warner, an artist doing some business Monday afternoon at the Phillips 66 at Paris Road and College Avenue.

“Who’s running?” asked fellow patron Michael Hoffman, 18, of Mexico, Mo.

Kamara Jones, 18, is a Hickman High School senior and a clerk at Barnes & Noble. She’s well aware there’s a primary today, but she’s not registered to vote and doesn’t want to be. She said she was disillusioned by the outcome of the last presidential election, in which George W. Bush was declared president despite having fewer popular votes than Al Gore.

“We were taking government class that year,” Jones said. “I was disappointed in what happened, in Florida, particularly.”

Natalie Gillispie, 22, is in the same boat. She has never registered to vote and doesn’t plan to.

“I never really liked politics,” she said. “It really doesn’t make a difference. When I realized that the president didn’t make the real decisions, that he was just the front man, I opted out.”

Mary Kirk, 35, a Columbia resident and MU student, said she’ll sit out the primary and vote in the November general election.

“It doesn’t really matter,” she said of today’s vote. “I’m just voting Democratic. Anyone’s better than Bush.”

Despite the widespread apathy, election judges will be at least a bit busy today recording the preferences of people who have made up their minds. Most interviewed by the Missourian said they’ll go with John Kerry.

Boone Tavern kitchen manager Brian Vick, 42, said Kerry gets his vote because he hasn’t thrown it away.

“It’s a process of elimination almost,” Vick said. “I thought Dean lost his composure, and Edwards seems too vague and too Hollywood.”

Hank Clark, a 46-year-old computer programmer, said Kerry is his man. He counts electability as a big factor. Also, he said, “I appreciate the fact that he’s a Vietnam War veteran, but he’s also critical of the war in Iraq.”

Other Democratic candidates have pockets of support. Chemist Aaron Easton, 29, said he was leaning toward Dick Gephardt until he dropped out of the race. Now Easton plans to vote for John Edwards.

“He’s the only candidate that isn’t bashing the other candidates, and I appreciate that,” Easton said.

Ken Nagel, 52, of Prairie Home, said he’ll vote for Edwards, too.

“He’s not a Washington insider, and he doesn’t owe anybody a lot of favors,” he said. “A lot of these guys, you can tell when they’re lying — their lips are moving.”

Bill Shelton, a 46-year-old executive and resident of Columbia, said while shopping at Kmart that he’ll vote for Howard Dean simply because “I agree with his political views and what he wants to do.”

Others remain undecided, adding to the mystery of today’s election. Phillips 66 customer Aaron Little, 23, said two or three candidates look appealing, but that’s as far as he would go.

“I haven’t taken the 10 minutes to find out which candidate is propagating the message I most prefer,” he said.

Missourian reporters Chase Davis, Joi Preciphs, Christie Smythe, Liza Lin, Emily Allen, Amanda Dahling and Juliet Turner contributed to this report.

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