Will the campaign inspire voting in Monett?

Friday, October 26, 2012

We're in the final stretch toward Election Day. With a record population in the City of Monett and record spending by politicians running for office, it will be interesting to see if all the irritation and stirring the pot translates into local voter turnout.

Presidential candidates seem to have turned their attention away from southwest Missouri. Even the U.S. Senate race seems to have cooled in the amount of money being thrown around, at least in this marketplace. But even so, there ought to be adequate motivation to get voters out to the polls.

According to county clerks Gary Youngblood and Gary Emerson, there are 4,199 active voters within the city limits of Monett, 2,617 in Barry County and 1,582 in Lawrence County. There are 541 inactive voters, whom the clerks attempted to contact but whose mail was not deliverable.

Inactive voters can still vote on Nov. 8, but they will have to provide location information to prove they are still eligible. Youngblood described a recent call he had from a voter who moved to Arkansas. The county clerk explained the law states a voter must cast a ballot in the state of residence, and the caller would be committing a crime by voting inappropriately in Missouri.

Barry County voters also need to remember they will cast their ballots for the very first time at the Church of the Nazarene, off South Highway 37 or off Waldensian Road, since the City Park Casino is no longer with us.

Youngblood is predicting around 65 to 70 percent of voters will go to the polls. The tally roughly corresponds with the 70 percent turnout in the 2008 presidential election.

If 70 percent of active Monett voters cast ballots, the total would run at just under 3,000 votes.

Records aren't kept for the number of city residents who vote in presidential elections, because precincts overlap into rural areas. Including the rural areas, the 2008 presidential election saw around 3,800 votes cast, factoring in 10 percent of the county's absentee ballots as coming from Monett.

Monett's population is recorded by the U.S. Census at 8,873. That means counting everybody who registered at one time to vote, even if they haven't voted lately, only 53 percent of the public is even eligible to cast a ballot.

Even if a third of Monett's population is underage, that leaves almost one in five people who have decided they don't want to have anything to do with the voting process, no matter what.

In Monett, some of that may stem from our immigrant population and their preference to stay out of the political process. For others, the value of participating in community affairs has been lost.

Monett's total vote ought to be increasing with the town's population growth. We hope to see the city and rural vote surpass 3,800 in this presidential election to show that civic pride is growing along with the population.