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St. Louis-Area Counties See High, But Not Record-Breaking, Turnout For 2020 Election

Voters wait in lines outside a St. Louis County polling site at the Ballwin Golf Course and Events Center on Election Day Tuesday, November 3, 2020.
Theo R. Welling
Special to St. Louis Public Radio
Voters wait in lines outside a St. Louis County polling site at the Ballwin Golf Course and Events Center on Tuesday.

The contentious race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden energized hundreds of thousands of voters across party lines in the St. Louis region to turn out at the polls on Tuesday.

The coronavirus pandemic dramatically altered what a typical election looks like and led more than 825,000 Missourians to cast absentee or mail-in ballots before Election Day.

On Tuesday morning, some voters found themselves in lines lasting more than two hours while others breezed into their polling place. The lines initially seemed to back local election officials’ predictions of record voter turnout. In reality, 2020 election turnout was high, but not record-setting, according to unofficial results from local election authorities.

St. Louis County had its highest number of voters since the 2008 presidential election. Around 69% of total registered voters in the county cast ballots. County officials originally predicted that rate to be even higher.

Voter turnout in St. Charles and Jefferson counties hit new highs, as the counties’ populations continue to grow. Both had more voters than in any previous election. But the percentage of registered voters who cast ballots — 76% in St. Charles County and 73% in Jefferson County — were on par with recent presidential elections, according to Missouri Secretary of State data.

While suburban counties saw high voter turnout, it was disappointingly low in St. Louis, said city Democratic Director of Elections Ben Borgmeyer. Just 60% of all registered city voters cast ballots. St. Louis and Kansas City, which had nearly 60% turnout, had among the lowest levels of voter turnout in the state.

Many rural counties, where Republicans dominated in state races Tuesday, saw among the highest levels of voter turnout.

More than 70% of all registered Missouri voters turned out to vote this election, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft tweeted last night. That’s the highest turnout level in more than 20 years. The 1992 presidential election between Bill Clinton and George George H.W. Bush brought out 78% of registered voters.

Missouri election officials will recount and verify ballot results for the next two weeks. They will report official numbers to the secretary of state’s office by Nov. 18.

Metro East turnout on par

In Illinois, election officials also said they expected a higher voter turnout. By the end of Tuesday, the number of voters was comparable to other presidential elections.

More than half of the votes in St. Clair County were cast early. But increased early voting in the Metro East did not translate to high numbers of voters at the polls on Election Day.

“I thought the Election Day would be much higher, but it was pretty typical, as it turns out,” Madison County Clerk Debra Ming-Mendoza said.

Voter turnout in Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties was higher than previous presidential elections, but only by a couple of percentage points. Each reported more than 70% turnout, with Monroe County topping the list at 78%.

Follow Kayla on Twitter: @_kayladrake

Kayla is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.