Missouri abolished the ballot option of straight-ticket voting in 2006 for all the right reasons. It allowed voters to blindly select candidates based solely on party affiliation without considering factors that informed voters would otherwise have regarded as disqualifying. Straight-ticket voting is democracy at its worst.
So why, then, do many Missourians still engage in the practice? Tuesday's election results made clear that voters across the state based major choices on party affiliation without regard to certain candidates' qualifications — or lack of them. If voters had taken time for a closer look at some candidates' backgrounds, we at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch believe they would certainly have chosen otherwise.
Exhibit A is Saundra McDowell, the GOP candidate for Missouri's state auditor. She campaigned on promises to make the auditor's office some kind of conservative bulwark against liberalism — an obvious smokescreen to hide her own disastrous financial background. The auditor's job is about numbers, accounting and accountability, not abortion rights or gun control.
Auditors verify whether state and local governments are complying with the law and spending taxpayer money wisely and efficiently. Which means the person running the office should have a demonstrable background of efficient financial management and legal compliance.
McDowell has faced a mountain of legal problems based on her inability to balance a checkbook and pay her debts. She and her husband face tens of thousands of dollars in court judgments. Informed Republican donors who flooded other campaigns with cash notably shunned McDowell. By Oct. 1, she had only $26,457 to carry her through the remainder of her campaign.
Contrast McDowell's sordid background with incumbent Nicole Galloway, a certified public accountant whose performance in the job since 2015 has been impeccable by any standard. But alas, Galloway is a Democrat. What should have been a walkaway for Galloway instead turned into a squeaker because voters across the state saw McDowell's party affiliation and automatically chose her.
In Missouri's strongly Republican Green, Camden and Jefferson counties, for example, McDowell's votes only slightly trailed the winner of the U.S. Senate race, Republican Josh Hawley. It was the vote in major urban areas, where McDowell's financial background received significant news coverage, that informed voters gave Galloway enough support to push her to victory.
Likewise, in St. Louis County, GOP county executive candidate Paul Berry entered the race mired in debts and court judgments. As of October, he owed landlords $40,000 in back rent, having been evicted five times in 14 years. Yet the election totals in heavily Democratic St. Louis County gave Berry almost exactly the vote count Hawley received there.
On ballot propositions where party affiliation wasn't a factor, voters united across party lines with startling consistency. Good governance starts when voters study candidates' actual qualifications instead of looking for the "Dem" or "Rep" beside their names on the ballot.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH