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County voter turnout could
hit 85% on Tuesday

by Ivan Foley
Landmark publisher

Expect a heavy voter turnout in Platte County.

That’s the word from officials at the Platte County Board of Elections in looking ahead to next week’s general election. The ballot in Platte County is long, with everything from the presidential election, statewide races, proposed constitutional amendments, a library tax increase proposal, and a decision on a couple of contested races for county offices.

“We’re thinking 85% voter turnout,” Chris Hershey, one of two directors for the Platte County Board of Elections, told The Landmark this week.

Hershey said the last time there was not an incumbent president on the ballot, in 2008 when Barack Obama faced John McCain, voter turnout in the county was 74.61 percent. In 2012 when Obama won reelection over Mitt Romney, county voter turnout was 63%.

“People seem pretty motivated to vote this year,” Hershey said.

As of Monday afternoon, 4,091 absentee ballots had already been requested in the county. In 2012 the total absentee ballots was 4,700 so it looks like that total will be surpassed.

“Wendy thinks we’re going to have 6,000 absentee voters this year,” Hershey said of Wendy Flanigan, a longtime director of elections in Platte County.

Hershey said at the board of elections office in Platte City the office has a “special absentee team” of workers to handle walk-in voters in the back so the full time staff can see to other important matters as election day draws near.
Meanwhile, the campaigns for various candidates are in high gear with just a matter of days until the vote. On the presidential scene, Platte County Republican headquarters has reported to The Landmark there have been several instances of Trump signs being vandalized in the county, including some that were spray painted with the words “racist” and “bigot.” Signs for Trump’s opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, seem to be few and far between in the county.
Analysts expect Trump to carry the state of Missouri. His campaign is not spending many dollars in the state, a sign it is comfortable it will win the state. Clinton’s campaign has spent little of late in Missouri, which seems to be a confirmation the Clinton folks think the state has become out of reach for them.
Meanwhile, on the Platte County scene, there are contested races for both district one and district two county commissioner spots.

In district two, generally described as north of Barry Road, Republican John Elliott and Democrat John Fairfield are squaring off to take the place of Duane Soper, the current district two commissioner who did not seek reelection. Elliott won a contested primary in August; Fairfield was unopposed in the Democrat primary.

Elliott, of rural Platte County not far from Smithville, has been knocking on doors. He has long been active in local politics, primarily behind the scenes as a campaign manager and activist for conservative government. Fairfield, an attorney, lives off of Ambassador Drive in Kansas City and is a former councilman for the City of Kansas City.

In district two, Dagmar Wood, Republican, faces a challenge from an independent candidate Andy Smith, who gained his spot on the ballot through a petition process. Wood defeated incumbent Beverlee Roper in a hard-fought Republican primary in August, winning by 95 votes.

Like Elliott, Wood says her campaign has been busy hitting the neighborhoods.

“We have knocked on over 6,000 doors in southern Platte County and an overwhelmingly common concert we hear is the ever-increasing property taxes we are paying. Taxing entities, including the county, need to be responsible stewards and understand that there is a very real impact on families with every levy increase,” Wood said.

“Public safety needs to be a top priority. Retaining law enforcement personnel has been a challenge. Turnover in this highly-trained area costs taxpayers in increased personnel expenses and lowers morale. We need to ensure that law enforcement has the necessary resources to retain quality personnel to keep us safe,” she said.

Another priority she mentioned is “budgeting and building reserves to safeguard our parks, community centers and trails so that we can ensure they are properly maintained into the future.”

Smith had not returned a message prior to Landmark press time.

Smith’s petition effort had an alleged violation that has been investigated by the Missouri Highway Patrol and forwarded to the state attorney general for a decision on any criminal charges. It is alleged by at least two people whose names appeared on Smith’s petition that they signed the petition in the presence of someone other than the person who signed as the circulator affiant on the petition.

Missouri law requires that each sheet of every petition be verified “by the person who circulated it by his or her affidavit.”

Also on Tuesday’s ballot are several countywide positions that are unopposed. Incumbents running unopposed include Rob Willard, county treasurer; Mark Owen, sheriff; and David Cox, assessor. A newcomer, Jera Pruitt, Republican, is running unopposed for public administrator.

Also on the ballot will be the much publicized proposed tax increase for the Mid-Continent Public Library. The multi-county district seeks to increase its tax levy from 32 cents to 40 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, a 25% property tax increase. The library says it would use the tax increase “for the purpose of renovating and replacing aging library facilities, enhancing spaces and programming for children and adults, expanding services and collections to serve public demand.” See related story for more information.

Statewide races on the ballot include incumbent Roy Blunt, Republican, vs. Jason Kander, Democrat, for U.S. Senator; Republican Eric Greitens vs. Democrat Chris Koster for governor; Democrat Russ Carnahan vs. Republican Mike Parson for lieutenant governor; Democrat Robin Smith vs. Republican Jay Ashcroft for secretary of state; Democrat Judy Baker vs. Relpublican Eric Schmitt for state treasurer; Democrat Teresa Hensley vs. Republican Josh Hawley for attorney general.

Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves seeks reelection against a challenge from Democrat David Blackwell.

For state representative in district 12, incumbent Kenneth Wilson, Republican, is challenged by Sandy Van Wagner, Democrat. For state representative in district 13, incumbent Republican Nick Marshall is challenged by Democrat Tyler McCall. In district 14, incumbent state representative Kevin Corlew, Republican, is challenged by Democrat Martin Rucker. In district 11, incumbent Republican Galen Higdon is unopposed.

For Tuesday’s ballot, see the legal notice beginning on page B-4 of this issue of The Landmark. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.