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Queen City wins voter turnout competition

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In a friendly competition to increase voter turnout in the midterm elections, Springfield easily defeated other cities of the same name in Illinois, Massachusetts and Oregon. 

In the Queen City, voter turnout increased by 27.6 percent in the 2018 midterms as compared to the 2014 election, according to data from the Greene County clerk’s office.

Springfield, Illinois, came in second with an 11 percent increase in turnout; Springfield, Oregon, posted a 5.6 percent jump; and Springfield, Massachusetts, had a 1.4 percent bump, according to the League of Women Voters of Southwest Missouri.

The Springfield Votes! competition was spearheaded by the leagues in each Springfield. The local league produced a video to encourage people to vote staring Jeff Houghton and Sarah Jenkins of “The Mystery Hour” with a $5,000 grant from Community Foundation of the Ozarks. It also pushed a campaign on social media, said Jessica Balisle, the local league’s voter engagement committee member.

“Because the goal of the League of Women Voters is just to increase turnout, we weren’t putting any caps on anything,” Balisle said. “I’m really stoked with the increase that we got.”

In addition to the increase in voter turnout, Springfield had a nearly 84 percent increase in total votes cast comparing this year’s midterms to 2014. The last midterm election, 63,725 votes were cast compared with this year’s 117,187 votes, according to county clerk data.

According to the Pew Research Center, tens of millions of registered voters of all ages did not cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election. The study found 15 percent believed their vote wouldn’t make a difference, and some said they were too busy or out of town on Election Day.

“I think this campaign really spoke to a younger crowd, which are typically the group that votes the least,” Balisle said. “We wanted to make people understand that voting can be fun — give it a little more curb appeal.”

She said she hopes the competition will continue in some form in coming elections to continue to get more people to the polls.

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