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Special Elections and You

Savanah Seyer, Staff Writer

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On Nov. 7, a special election will be held in certain parts of Missouri to fill vacant state legislature seats and to vote on special propositions.

Special elections are held separately from regular elections in the case of a vacancy in a government position or when there is a bill that needs voting on. In Missouri, there are currently three districts voting in the special election to fill a state legislature seat. The most controversial of these is in District 8, where the current state senator left to accept a position with Governor Greitens’ administration.

Here in St. Louis, a special election is being held to new Alderman for the city’s 2nd Ward, and to vote on the controversial Proposition P. Proposition P is a proposal to raise the city sales tax by ½ of 1 percent. The extra revenue would amount to almost $20 million annually, most of which would then be spent on the Saint Louis Police Department, raising salaries among other measures.

This is a very controversial issue—especially due to the increased tensions between police and the African American community in St. Louis, which were heightened even more recently by the Jason Stockley verdict earlier this year. St. Louis mayor Lyda Krewson has come out in support of Proposition P, stating that will level the playing field for officers in the area, after St. Louis County recently passed their own version of the proposition. Supporters of the proposition cite the pay disparity between county and city cops (rookie county cops can sometimes make thousands more than their city counterparts) as a large factor in the lack of recruitment of good city cops.

Opponents of Prop. P disagree with this reasoning, saying that the tax hike will hurt communities that are already struggling to make ends meet, and who they believe have been let down by the city police department already.

The special election on Nov. 7 will allow St. Louis voters to make their decision on Proposition P.

Special elections typically do not receive the attention that regularly scheduled elections do, however, according to Robert Lasky, Executive Board member of SLU College Democrats, they are very important.

“These elections aren’t as fancy as Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump, [but] they’re important. Prop P will have a serious effect. It really affects a lot of people,” said Lasky. “Every voice matters regardless of how you vote on it.”

Many people never hear about special elections, much less vote on them. At SLU, groups of students such as SLU Dems and Political Round Table have looked to change that by registering people to vote, and by helping them get to their polling places. Both Lasky and Denish Jaswal, the president of SLU Political Round table emphasized the importance of voting, and especially on local issues.

“I would emphasize that voting is not only a civic duty, but one of the easiest (for most cases) and most important things one can [do to] enhance democracy,” said Jaswal. “I would also especially emphasize that local elections matter quite a bit, and in the past year, our mayoral election was decided by a span of just a few thousand votes.”

SLU Dems and Political Round Table have teamed up in the past to register SLU students to vote. They are seen throughout the year on West Pine and in the BSC, among other places, urging students to register. Jaswal said that setting up a registration drive is a lot of work, taking usually about two weeks to plan, but that the outcome is worth it, especially in years of large political interest. Last year, leading up to the 2016 election, Jaswal said the drive registered over 2000 people to vote. Lasky agreed, saying that the last election increased interest in politics.

“People have started to realize that politics really affects them,” said Lasky, “They realize that it isn’t just something abstract that happens in Washington D.C.; it happens in our backyards.”

As much as there has been an increase of interest in politics, the issue with special elections is that many students don’t feel the urgency to vote if the election isn’t a national one.

“Given the hype of the presidential election last year, I do think there was an increase in students voting,” said Jaswal. “However, now that the hype has died down, I think that less people are interested in voting. We’ve successfully registered a few people to vote this year, but the matter does not seem as pressing, even though it is.”

Many people who would normally vote may sometimes not due to lack of transportation or information about a special election. Fortunately, here at SLU, this should not be a problem for students. Lasky said that for this year’s special election, College Dems will be offering a shuttle for students from SLU to the local polling place.

“Myself and our treasurer will be shuttling people over,” said Lasky, “All they need to do is RSVP to our Facebook event on the College Dems page.”

With the special election coming up, Lasky, Jaswal and their groups wanted to remind people that voting in local elections is incredibly important, and that everyone should try and stay up to date on local politics.

“I think the biggest thing I’d like to communicate is how important it is to be active in local politics,” said Jaswal. “Local politics affects day to day lives and the community in which one and their loved ones inhabit. Being involved at this level is not only the most likely to impact to individual concern, but is also important in expanding one’s concern from outside their immediate bubble.”

The special election on Proposition P is being held on Nov. 7. Polling places and rides to and from can be found online.

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Special Elections and You