One of the founding tenets of our country is the right of the citizens to have a role in their government, and they do this by voting. Today, too many people are giving up the right to have their voices heard, especially in local and municipal politics. Low voter turnouts and disengaged demographics have led to important elections being decided by a meager percentage of eligible voters.

Twin Oaks Town Hall, located on 1381 Big Bend Road, in Twin Oaks, Missouri, is home to a typical voting station Americans find throughout the country on every election day. Understated and unassuming, but it is polling stations across America where the nation’s most important business takes place each and every election day.      Photo by Jack Gienke


Aug. 4, 2020, was a bright sunny day, and besides being cooler than normal in early August, there was nothing out of the ordinary. 

What most people probably did not know, judging by the poll numbers, was that Aug. 4, 2020, was an election day in Missouri.

For many, local elections and primaries are seen as unimportant, and many choose not to participate in them at all; however, they continue to be some of the most important and directly impactful on their constituencies.  

My particular polling place was a local high school, where a couple of signs dotted the walkway in, and one candidate’s volunteer stood the required distance away from the doors trying to catch the eye of voters leaving.

Inside, a couple of tables had been set up so poll workers could check in voters so they could fill out their ballots.

City of Manchester City Hall, located on Manchester Road.     Photo by Jack Gienke

It was easy to tell which demographics cared about the elections that day: the majority of the workers and voters were of an older generation.

During my time there I was without a doubt the youngest person voting, even causing a bit of surprise for the worker who helped me get my ballot.

The whole process, from arriving to feeding my ballot into the tabulation machine, took less than 10 minutes and held implications for the next four years of government leadership in the state. 

Despite the ease and importance of the process, many eligible voters decided, for one reason or the other, that it was not worth their time.

According to results from the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, most elections that day saw between 10-20% voter turnout, out of a total 757,544 registered voters in St. Louis County.

Not only is the turnout rate low, but it is often weighted toward certain demographics. A study by Portland State University showed that people 65 or older were seven times more likely to vote in a local election than someone aged 18 to 34. 

Whether the election is for president of the United States or the mayor of your town, it has an impact on everyone who lives in the jurisdiction, whether they voted or not.

State governments control things like tax rates, state school funding, minimum wage, and the laws that govern their citizens.

Local and city governments manage public services, such as water and sewers, they maintain roads, and control fire and police departments.  

So, the local and state governments, led by the people elected in these local elections, actually have major impacts that people most likely don’t realize. The Aug. 4 elections included state representatives, federal representatives, and even the governor, but it was just a primary, so it really doesn’t matter, right? 

Sure, everyone will have another chance to vote for these positions during the November election less than two weeks away, but not everything that was on the ballot in August makes it to the November election. 

This particular primary ballot featured both a major amendment for the state and a proposition at the county level. The proposition called for revising the county charter and the amendment would considerably expand Medicaid coverage for the state. 

These propositions are voted on once during this primary election. Whether they pass or fail is decided during this one day by a small minority of eligible voters.     

Every citizen over the age of 18 should exercise their right to vote every time they can. It is not just a privilege but a responsibility.

It is a privilege because people all over the world do not enjoy the ability to elect their leaders in a fair and democratic fashion. 

It is a responsibility to be informed on the issues and to vote to try and bring about the leadership and change you believe is right. 

Someone who can vote and chooses not to has no right to criticize the actions of those elected. The highest mark of favor or displeasure is shown at the ballot box. 

With a major election that will elect officials on all levels of the government coming up on Nov. 3, I hope, if you are eligible, that you will take the time out of your day to exercise your right to vote and, more importantly, your right to have a voice in the way you are governed.

By Jack Gienke

Jack Gienke is a staff writer for MBU Timeline. Gienke is pursuing a major in history with a minor in communications. He enjoys watching almost any kind of sports and actively supports the St. Louis Cardinals and Blues as well as the Green Bay Packers. Gienke loves all things St. Louis and spends time volunteering at his church. He is also one of the founding members of the St. Louis Tigerball League.