Like 30,354 other Franklin County residents, I performed my civic duty last Tuesday.
I got up earlier than normal, by about five minutes, to cast my vote in last week’s primary election. As a journalist, there’s some debate about whether or not I should be voting, but it’s something I choose to do.
I rarely, if ever, have sat out an election since my 18th birthday. I feel like it’s important, so I vote.
This year, however, I seriously considered sitting out. There were things I wanted to vote on, but I was ready to protest Missouri’s primary system.
Personally, I strongly dislike the idea of a primary election split among party lines. It leaves people out of the process.
I’m not alone either. When I was out voting Tuesday, a number of people in line with me grumbled about the ballot situation. In Missouri, you have to pick a party and grab that ballot.
You want to grab the Republican ballot? Well you lose your chance to vote for the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate. Big fan of a Libertarian candidate? Take the ballot and you don’t get to vote in a number of key Franklin County races.
The county in recent years has been dominated by Republican candidates. So much so that the primary often acts as the election.
For example, if you wanted a say in the next presiding commissioner your only option was to vote Tuesday and grab a Republican ballot.
That strikes me as very strange and against the ideals of voting. I think the most egregious race this year was the contest of county collector of revenue.
Only three Republicans filed so the winner of the primary will be uncontested in November. In a tight race, all three candidates got at least 5,200 votes with the winner, Doug Trentmann, getting 6,908.
Runner-up Jamie Keen got 6,690 and saw her chance at becoming collector over.
A total of 18,798 people voted for collector out of the 30,000-plus who voted meaning around 12,000 people were engaged enough to vote, but don’t get their voices heard.
Nothing against the winner of the race, but it seems strange that of the tens of thousands of eligible voters less than 7,000 get to pick the winner just because of Missouri’s primary.
Some of you reading this are probably saying, “But Joe, that’s the way it’s always been. If you wanted to vote for collector, you should have grabbed a Republican ballot.”
I agree with that, but that doesn’t mean it’s the way it always has to be. I have two words for you: jungle primary.
The state of California is known for many things, but one thing stands out. In my opinion California does primaries right. California uses a nonpartisan blanket primary. It’s not the only state to use them, but they’re the most well known.
Here’s how it works. Seats open, candidates file, ballots are printed and voters vote. The system was implemented in 2012 to give people who have no party affiliation a chance to take part in primaries.
Basically all the candidates, regardless of party, are thrown onto the ballot. Voters then get to vote for whoever they want. At the end of the day, the top two candidates, regardless of party, advance to the general election.
If Missouri had the nonpartisan blanket primary, voters wouldn’t have had to choose a ballot. All 30,000 voters who cast ballots last week would have been able to vote for every candidate in every race.
To use the collector example, the race would have had, again, about 10,000 more potential voters and it would have just eliminated one candidate. In November, when it’s clear that it’s the final race, voters would have then had the choice between two candidates.
Would it have made a difference? Maybe not, but it would level the playing field and give every voter in the county a voice.
Missourians should have this option, too.