BOWLING GREEN, Mo. -- Election officials in four Northeast Missouri counties say they have seen an influx of people registering to vote ahead of the state's Presidential Preference Primary, slated for March 10.
Anyone not registered to vote -- but wants to be -- must do so by Wednesday's deadline, according to the Missouri secretary of state's office.
"We have had lots of folks in the office today registering to vote," said Pike County Clerk Susie Oberdahlhoff. "I can't say specifically that people are registering to vote in this election, but I think social media has really reminded people that they need to register or update their registration."
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been running promotional advertisements encouraging people to register to vote. Oberdahlhoff said those coming to her office have been nearly even split between first-time registrants and those updating their registration after moving.
Elsewhere in the region, election officials in Marion, Lewis, and Ralls counties say they are seeing an increase in the number of people registering online through the Missouri Secretary of State's website, sos.mo.gov/elections/goVoteMissouri/register.
"Most people now have a computer and are going online to register to vote," said Ralls County Clerk Sandy Lanier, who said number of in-person voter registrations have been slower than normal since January.
Those with access to smartphones or tablets may register online, and people using computers may download registration forms to submit by mail. New voters also can register at their local election authorities. Most county clerk offices will be open until 5 p.m., though the Ralls County Courthouse is closed Wednesday in observance of President Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Those needing to register at the Ralls County Clerk's office can file their voter card at the drop box on the rear of the courthouse.
On the Missouri presidential ballot will be 22 Democrats, five Republicans, three Green Party candidates, two from the Constitution Party and one Libertarian.
Despite having so many candidates on the ballot, election officials like Oberdahlhoff are bracing for an election where one-third of the electorate participates.
"I might be surprised, but I think a lot will depend on the education of voters and if they know that we have an election. When I have talked to people about the upcoming election, a lot of them are focused on the April municipal election. They are puzzled when I tell them that we have an election in March," Oberdahlhoff said. In the Presidential Preference Primary in 2016, Pike County voter turnout was 38.48%. The county has about 10,000 registered voters.
In Marion County, where there are 19,000 registered voters, voter turnout in 2016 was 35% with 6,772 voters casting ballots. There was a similar turnout in Lewis County, where 35.08% of voters participated in the 2016 primary. There are roughly 6,000 voters in the rural Northeast Missouri county.
After a 2016 election that saw 38% of voter turnout in Ralls County, Lanier said she is expecting a similar turnout in 2020.
"I am always hopeful for 100% turnout, but I'm guessing that it won't be, and that it will be closer to a 35% turnout," Lanier said. "The people voting in this election I believe are people who feel very strongly about it being their right to exercise their right to vote. There are also some people who feel very strongly about some of the candidates, which may increase turnout."