The numbers from Tuesday’s St. Louis City Municipal Primary are alarming. Barely anyone voted.
21.9%: 8th Ward Alderman 2 Candidate race
19.6%: 15th Ward Alderman 2 Candidate race
16.4%: 7th Ward Alderman 3 Candidate race
15.9%: 26th Ward Alderman 2 Candidate race
14.9%: 2nd Ward Alderman 4 Candidate race
14.8%: 24th Ward Alderman 2 Candidate race
14.2%: 20th Ward Alderman 3 Candidate race
14.3%: 28th Ward Alderman 2 Candidate race
12.5%: 12th Ward Alderman 4 Candidate race
11.3%: 4th Ward Alderman 2 Candidate race
9.1%: Board of Alderman President 2 Candidate race
8.7%: 22nd Ward Alderman 3 Candidate race
7.4%: 6th Ward Alderman Unopposed Incumbent
7.0%: 16th Ward Alderman Unopposed Incumbent
6.6%: 18th Ward Alderman Unopposed Incumbent
5.0%: 14th Ward Alderman Unopposed Incumbent
4.8%: 10th Ward Alderman Unopposed Incumbent
4.5%: 13th Ward Alderman Unopposed Incumbent
Additionally, there were Republican Candidates running in 8 of 28 Wards and Green Party Candidates running in 5 of 28 Wards.
Voters had choices in most wards.
I cannot speak for other wards, but I know in the 7th Ward that the turnout issue was obviously not due to a lack of high quality candidates or a lack of contact from/with the candidates. We had robust debate in the 7th Ward. It was an election, not a coronation. I am proud of that.
In the March 2013 St. Louis City Primary, turnout was higher with far fewer competitive alderman races and day-long freezing rain. The difference? A competitive race for Mayor: Mayor Francis Slay vs. Board President Lewis Reed.
We did not have that this year. There was no citywide contest driving voter turnout. Jimmie Matthews was no threat to President Reed.
Turnouts are higher in State Elections when the top of the ticket is President, U.S. Senate and U.S. House, and Statewide Offices. We know from last year that a lack of a Democratic Candidate for the sole Statewide Office on the ballot can decrease turnout in St. Louis City significantly.
Instant Runoff Voting isn’t the answer. Chicago operates under that system. Turnout was 32% in their February 24th election for Mayor, 50 Aldermen, and a ballot issue to return control of the Chicago School Board back to voters.
Nonpartisan Elections aren’t the answer. Municipalities in St. Louis County have nonpartisan elections and their turnout is pitiful as well.
What can be done here to increase turnout? We can move our St. Louis City March-April Elections in odd-numbered years to State August-November Elections in even-numbered years. It will save money and increase participation.
–Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman