Municipal elections rarely, if ever, gather attention similar to the national elections. That fact is reflected again this year as several positions for town government roles have no candidates.
Depending on where they’re from, voters can look forward to casting ballots on a slew of issues, such as council positions and school board seats, Fire District board posts and bond issues in rural school districts. All the voters in the county share only one common issue to vote on: a proposed one-fifth-cent sales tax increase that would pay for an expansion of the Boone County Courthouse and other building projects.
Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren said she expects the variety of issues to lead to a variety of voter turnouts.
“The mix of what people are getting drives the turnout,” Noren said.
She said issues such as the election of a new director for the Boone County Fire Protection District and the question of whether to increase that board’s membership from three to five should see the most interest from voters.
The county tax issue is also sparking some interest, she said, even though it was placed on the ballot relatively recently.
In Columbia, there is competition for both available seats on the Columbia City Council. The fact that Sixth Ward incumbent Brian Ash is not seeking re-election makes that contest more interesting and could draw more voters, Noren said.
In the end, however, Noren said it is the number of items that ultimately affects the number of voters.
But voters aren’t alone in showing a variety of turnout. The number of candidates running varies greatly from position to position.
In towns and villages outside Columbia, most who are running are unopposed. Some positions have no candidates at all.
In Ashland, seats for alderman in the Second and Third wards each have just one person on the ballot. Whoever is elected for alderman in the First Ward will be a write-in because no candidate has stepped forward to run for that office.
Noren said that’s not unusual.
“It’s pretty difficult to get people to serve on these things,” she said.
Hartsburg Mayor Nancy Grant said she isn’t surprised, either.
“You have to have kind of a thick skin to be a public official,” she said. “I would guess that people get burnt out after a while.”
In Hartsburg, the governing body is a five-member board of trustees. Each member is up for election every year. This year, the ballot lists only three candidates. The remaining two seats will be filled by those who receive the most write-in votes.
“That’s very common,” Grant said. “It used to be that there weren’t any names filled out on the ballot.”
While some towns struggle to find candidates for leadership posts, many school boards continue to overflow with them. Both the Harrisburg and Centralia school districts, for example, have four candidates for two available positions. And in the North Callaway district, which includes a sliver of Boone County, five people are vying for two spots.
In Columbia, five candidates are seeking two available seats; three are first-time candidates. One of those rookies, Steve Calloway, attributes the high interest in school board positions to the ability to have an immediate impact without being forced to associate with a political party.
“They don’t want to be labeled and have to be so politically correct,” Calloway said.
Before going to the polls, Noren said voters should make sure they received their sample ballots. If they have not, they can check their registration address at either www.showmeboone.com/CLERK or by calling 886-4375.
Absentee ballots are available for those who will be away on election day.