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By Earl Glynn, Missouri Watchdog
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.
In Douglas County, there are 620 inactive voters. That’s roughly 6 percent of the 10,341 registered voters in the county.
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:
* Pettis County, 0.3 percent
* Saline County, 1.2 percent,
* Caldwell County,1.5 percent
Only 10.1 percent of voters in Jackson County are inactive, while 20.5 percent in Kansas City on the western side of Jackson County are inactive.
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.