Various commenters across the state continue to argue that Prop C’s thundering success at the Aug. 3 primary election should not be taken seriously because of low voter turnout. As I have pointed out previously on this blog, the statistics really were overwhelming, even though only 20 percent of registered voters came out to the polls. All those who continue to harp on this issue should consider that Missouri’s current Constitution was adopted in a special election held on Feb. 27, 1945. The voter turnout on that day? Only 20 percent.
But I’ve been thinking about this issue a great deal lately. It does seem quite strange that our system would permit a relatively tiny fraction of the population to pass laws that will be binding on everyone. I also find it strange that elected officials can claim their positions without having earned the explicit approval of a significant percentage of the people who will be bound by their authority. After all, most legislative bodies have a quorum requirement that ensures that there must be a critical mass of support before they can take action. Wouldn’t it make sense for this principle to be applied to all votes?
Perhaps we should consider amending the Missouri Constitution to provide that no proposition may be considered passed and no politician may be considered duly elected unless a certain percentage of registered voters actually casts ballots on that issue or candidate. If any given issue or candidate cannot motivate enough people to come to the polls to vote in their favor, perhaps the people would be better off without them. For propositions, this simply means the status quo would continue. For offices, I submit that they should remain unfilled until the people of the relevant jurisdiction have called a special election that successfully attracts the requisite number of voters. If the people themselves have not come up with a person that a truly representative percentage wants to hold that office, wouldn’t it be better to let them wait until they have settled on a well-supported candidate?