Legislative Column for Nov. 5, 2020
While most Missourians tried to put the election behind them on Nov. 4, I spent the day driving around my Senate district collecting campaign signs. All that windshield time provided an opportunity to reflect on this year’s campaigns and take stock of the results. For the most part, I was pleased. We don’t know yet how the national election will pan out, but I couldn’t be happier about the outcome on the statewide level.
Each of the statewide officeholders on the ballot was reelected by wide margins. That tells me Missourians are happy with the jobs these five elected officials are doing, and voters are satisfied with the direction the state is headed. I happen to agree with the voters’ assessment. Also on the ballot were two constitutional amendments. One measure would have imposed a two-term limit on the four statewide offices not currently subject to term limits. Voters rejected this proposal, apparently deciding the ballot box provided sufficient opportunity to limit terms of office. I supported that view. Constitutional Amendment 3 returns the responsibility of drawing legislative districts to a bipartisan commission comprised of legislators and citizens. I was pleased voters approved this amendment, as I felt the changes enacted by the so-called Clean Missouri initiative of 2018 were unworkable. Missouri’s previous redistricting methods served us well for generations, and I believe the changes brought by Amendment 3 will continue to ensure local representation in Jefferson City.
In 2020, the Legislature approved temporary changes to Missouri’s election law in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We expanded opportunities for absentee voting and, for the first time ever, allowed mail-in ballots to be cast. In hindsight, any worries I might have had about complications on Election Day were unfounded. Absentee ballots more than doubled this year, but county clerks appeared to be unfazed by the increased volume. Also, I believe local officials did a great job handling a steady stream of in-person voters at the polls, despite making allowances for social distancing.
Turn-out was strong this year, with about 69 percent of eligible voters participating in the election, according to preliminary results provided by the secretary of state. There were nearly 82,000 votes cast in the eight counties I represent in the Missouri Senate. With 115,000 registered voters in the district, that mirrors the state average almost exactly.
All told, more than 3 million Missourians voted in the 2020 General Election. That’s about 200,000 more than four years ago. More than 816,000 absentee and about 60,000 mail-in ballots were cast this year, a near three-fold increase from the 304,000 absentee votes of 2016. Election officials were not allowed to count absentee and mail-in votes prior to Election Day, but they still managed to get all the non-military votes posted online before the sun rose on Wednesday. All of this was possible due to many hours of hard work by poll workers and election officials. Great job, all!
I was especially pleased to see voters elevate my friend Karla Eslinger to the Missouri Senate. A resident of Wasola, Karla is a lifelong educator with 30 years’ experience, both in the classroom and in administrative and support roles. Although she holds degrees from three different Missouri universities, Karla also earned an advanced education from the school of hard knocks. Growing up under less than ideal circumstances, she overcame life challenges and is a certified expert in hard work and perseverance. Karla comes to the Senate after serving District 155 of the Missouri House of Representatives, where she proved herself a dedicated public servant. I am thrilled to know she will be my senator, and I look forward to her service. I’m confident you will come to appreciate her as much as I do.
It is my great honor to represent the citizens of the 33rd Senatorial District. Although the Legislature has adjourned for 2020, I remain your senator throughout the year. If there’s anything that I can do to assist you, please feel free to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.