BOONE COUNTY- People voted in a special election Tuesday on a use tax propositions for Columbia and Boone County. Taylor Burks, Boone County Clerk, said voter turnout was unusually low for the vote.
“Right now we are at 6.1% for mid-afternoon, not a great turnout. You normally want to see more people turnout to vote in these small local elections,” Burks said.
Burks said voting in local elections is just as important as state or national elections.
“I always speak to voters about the value of local elections, your vote in a local election has a lot more impact than what you’re voting on in state or national issues,” Burks said.
Voter turnout is driven by many factors, he said, but elections with more issues on the ballot tend to bring more voters to the polls than single-issue ballots, such as the use tax.
“Different things derive voter turnout and derive voter interest, when you have candidates who are running for specific offices, voters tend to engage more with that than they do ballot issues or tax issues."Burks said. "When you have multiple candidates, multiple campaigns, multiple issues, you address different segments of the population that may not tune into a single issue.”
Columbia City Council and Boone County Commission approved putting the use tax on the ballot back in August. The tax appears on the ballot in Boone County as Proposition U and in Columbia as Proposition 1.
The proposition, if approved, would tax residents for purchases from out-of-state vendors and will use the same rate as the total local sales tax rate, at two percent.
Items cannot fall into both categories, sales tax or use tax, so purchases can only be taxed under one category or the other. The City of Columbia said if the local sales tax rate is reduced or raised by voter approval, the local use tax rate will also be reduced or raised by the same action.
For businesses that do not report the tax, residents will be responsible for reporting purchases that exceed $2000 to the Department of Revenue.
The city plans to use the additional revenue for public services, such as police and fire departments, roads and sidewalks.
Other mid-Missouri cities that already have a use tax are Boonville, Moberly and Fayette. St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield also have their own use tax.
County clerks from Howard County and Cooper County were in Columbia to watch the special election take place.
Kathryne Harper, Howard County Clerk, said working with other counties is helpful in determining what methods work best for running smaller local elections.
“Just to see the difference between how a large first-class county operates versus a rural third-class county is amazing. Taylor showing us some of his software and different technologies that we like to implement and to see that first hand on election day, when we are normally busy answering phones, is just a great opportunity,” Harper said.