Voter interest in a number of races and issues is expected to result in a higher than normal turnout today in city and school elections across the region.
County clerks in Jasper and Newton counties said Monday that it appears turnout may be spurred by competitive races for the Joplin City Council and Board of Education, Joplin’s recycling question, and school bond issues in Carthage and Neosho.
Most voters usually stay home when choices are made each April in city and school leadership races. Turnout often is less than 10 percent. But interest is significantly higher this year, probably because of issues in Joplin, clerks said.
“It’s Joplin, definitely; that’s where most of the absentee ballots are coming from,” Bonnie Earl, Jasper County clerk, said Monday.
Normally, fewer than 400 absentee votes are cast in Jasper County for the April election. This year, the total is more than 700, Earl said.
The clerk’s offices were open Saturday morning for absentee balloting; 25 people voted in Joplin, and two voted in Carthage, she said.
Last year, 12.5 percent of the county’s registered voters cast ballots in the April election. Earl said she expects countywide turnout to top 15 percent this year.
“We think the percentage will be higher than that in Joplin, but there are parts of the county where there aren’t races,” she said. “Our phones are busy today like it’s an August or November election. It’s never like that in April.”
The races and issues also attracted a number of new voters; the Jasper County clerk’s office registered 175 people as voters between Feb. 26 and March 12, the last two weeks that residents could sign up to vote in today’s balloting.
Voter interest also is up among Joplin residents of Newton County, according to Kay Baum, county clerk.
A year ago, fewer than 100 absentee ballots were cast, and turnout was 8 percent. This year, Baum said, about 230 absentee ballots have been cast.
“I think the turnout could be as much as 20 percent,” she said. “We’ve also had some interest in the Neosho school bond.”
In Joplin, voters will be deciding on four City Council seats, a curbside recycling question and three proposed changes to the Home Rule Charter. Six candidates are running for three general council seats, two contenders are vying for the Zone 4 post, and the Zone 1 councilman is running unopposed. Joplin residents may vote for all races for general and zone seats.
In the Joplin School District, voters will tab three board members from a field of seven.
In addition to council and school board contests, Carl Junction voters will decide a $2 million bond issue for parks and recreation; voters in the Carthage School District will vote on an $18 million construction bond issue; and Webb City voters will decide a $2.5 million bond issue for a swimming pool.
In Newton County, voters will decide a $24 million bond issue in the Neosho School District, and sales tax questions in Seneca and Leawood Village.
POLLS WILL OPEN at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. today.