Voter registration data shows 471,542 out of 4.1 million Missouri voters, or 11.5 percent, are “inactive” because they have not voted recently and may have invalid mailing addresses.
Large voting districts often have high inactive rates:
- St. Louis County, 9.2 percent
- Jackson County, 10.1 percent
- St. Charles County, 11.0 percent
- Greene County, 18.6 percent
- Kansas City, 20.5 percent
- City of St. Louis, 22.3 percent
Boone County is the 10th largest in voters but ranks second highest with 21.2 percent inactive.
The counties with the lowest inactive rates:
Can inactive voters decide an election?
Voting irregularities have been alleged in the Missouri House District 40 Democratic Primary held in August. John Rizzo defeated Will Royster by a single vote, and recently the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled in the matter.
Comparing the list of those voting in the District 40 Aug. 3 election with a list of voters from June 25 shows 26 voters in the August primary were likely inactive voters. Two of those inactive voters lived at a building Kansas City marked as a “dangerous building.” Attempts to locate these inactive voters have not been successful.
Identifying inactive voters
Kansas City Board of Election directors Shelley McThomas and Shawn Kieffer told Missouri Watchdog they do everything possible to identify inactive voters and to get voters to the correct polling place, but they are limited on what they do by Missouri and federal laws.
Kiefer said, “We canvass after every election” including spring elections.
Returned cards result in inactive voters but when possible they send transfer paperwork for those who move to a new location to prevent them from remaining inactive voters.
McThomas said it is common for younger voters to not give the post office a forwarding address since so many pay bills online, and so much communication takes place with cell phone instead of letters.
“They don’t care about their mail because they do everything online,” McThomas said.
“We may never find them until they come to vote.”
Both Kieffer and McThomas agreed the “online” nature of the younger population would be a challenge for the future of elections.
Laura Egerdal, spokesperson at the Missouri Secretary of State, said “one thing that is very important to understand about inactive voters is that local election authorities are following a process defined by federal law.”
Egerdal said areas with high transient populations will result in high numbers of inactive voters when the federal laws are followed.
A Kansas City Star article on Oct. 24, 2004 said Missouri had 561,969 inactive voters, or 13.4 percent, when Missouri registration was 4,206,423 voters. This preceded a federal lawsuit in 2005 when 30 Missouri counties had more registered voters than the population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The inactive rate in nearby Kansas is 8 percent.
- Kansas has almost 138,000 inactive voters, Kansas Watchdog, Oct. 25, 2010.
- Voter rolls don’t add up, prompting a federal lawsuit, Kansas City Star, Dec. 6, 2005.
- Voter rolls at record high – Missouri registration totals 4.2 million, Kansas City Star, Oct. 20, 2004.
- The Impact of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 on the Administration of Elections for Federal Office 2007-2008, U.S. Election Assistance Commission, June 30, 2009. Appendices give info about active/inactive counts in the 2008 general election for all states.
Contact: Earl F Glynn, [email protected], KansasWatchdog.org