ST. LOUIS — Voter turnout in the region was high for the tense and tempestuous presidential election this month, but not record-breaking, despite those expectations.
In total, more than 74% of the registered voters in the region’s 10 most central counties voted in the Nov. 3 election, the highest turnout in more than a decade, according to official results released by the counties over the past week.
Eight counties — Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, St. Louis, St. Charles and Warren in Missouri, plus Monroe and Madison in Illinois — reported more than 72% turnout. Monroe and St. Louis counties reported the highest results among the 10, at about 79% each. Six counties bested their turnout in 2008, when former President Barack Obama first ran for the office.
As a whole, 22,000 more residents of the 10 counties voted this year than in 2008.
But as a percentage of registered voters, 2020 came in just under 2008, 74.2% to 74.3%.
Pundits and officials, citing unusually high absentee voting for Nov. 3, predicted big turnouts across the country. And the total number of votes cast in the U.S. for President-Elect Joe Biden — more than 79 million, so far — marks the most ever recorded.
Still, voter turnouts in area counties fell short of 2008: About 24,000 fewer ballots were cast this year in St. Louis city as well as in St. Louis County.
Gary Stoff, Republican director of elections for St. Louis, said the increase in absentee and mail-in ballots was almost four-fold from previous years, totaling 47,000 of the 135,000 ballots cast in the city. He was impressed with how his staff handled the pre-Election Day rush and was also pleased with the responses his office received when seeking volunteers to work the election.
But turnout tumbled in St. Louis city. After rising to almost 74% in 2012, Obama’s second term, it fell to 66% this year.
“We were thinking it would be 70 or 75 percent,” Stoff said. “I don’t have an explanation for that.”
Missouri’s law allows for election boards to begin processing absentee and mail-in ballots up to five days before the election, though they cannot be scanned in until Election Day. St. Louis finished scanning ballots before 7 p.m., Stoff said.
Missouri and Illinois have not yet officially certified results. Officials expect them to do so in early December.
But early data put Missouri turnout at just under 70%, the highest in at least 12 years — tenths of a percentage point higher than in 2008.
Still, it’s unlikely that’s a record: 79% of Missourians voted in the 1992 election between Bill Clinton and then-President George H.W. Bush.
Illinois has not published unofficial results, but it estimated 72% turnout using figures published by the Associated Press — also similar to turnout in 2008.
Jean Evans, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, said the state turnout was in line with the state GOP’s predictions.
The biggest surprises for Evans: The 9,000-vote margin of victory for state Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, over state Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood. And the passage of Amendment 3. The amendment is a Republican-led ballot initiative and overturns a new legislative redistricting process that state voters passed two years ago.
“We had $10 million spent against us, and we just used our grassroots effort, and it did pass,” Evans said.
For the Democrats, geography was what surprised them; particularly, Republican vote totals in St. Louis County and in Jackson County, a part of the Kansas City-metro.
“I think a lot of people up and down the ballot, and around the country, thought Democrats were going to have a really good time in the suburbs,” said Andrew Storey, spokesman for the Missouri Democratic Party.
St. Louis region 2020 voter turnout
In the 10 most central counties in the St. Louis region, 74% of voters cast ballots in the 2020 presidential race.
|County||2020 Turnout||2016 Turnout||2012 Turnout||2008 turnout|
|St. Charles County||76.2%||73.6%||72.6%||77.5%|
|St. Clair County||66.8%||66.5%||64.0%||63.0%|
|St. Louis city||66.1%||69.0%||73.8%||71.7%|
|St. Louis County||78.7%||74.1%||76.0%||78.3%|
|Source: County election boards; Illinois State Board of Elections|