Checking in at the primary polling places
The reports from around the St. Louis area all agree on one thing. The voting is steady, but small. No lines. We will update reports from polling places as they come in. For election information, go to Beyond November.
3:13 p.m., South County
Campaign workers were still going strong outside the Queen of All Saints church as the lunch hour rolled around. One worker was a candidate, state Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, who is running for reelection.
Standing outside the church with her daughter Melissa, Haefner seemed encouraged by the day's turnout. She said the church had seen more voters than other polling places she visited today.
"I think the churches, the parishes are getting a better turn out because of (Amendment) 2," she said. "I think it's bringing more people to their churches."
Melissa Haefner agreed. Citing the controversy over insurance coverage of birth control, she said voting for Amendment 2 was a way for parish members to fight back against the "attack" on the church.
"Parishioners know that it's important to vote," Marsha Haefner said.
One voter, Marilyn Callahan, was less convinced of the amendment's need, saying she was worried about the amendment's wording and ambiguity.
"Listening to the controversy, I'm going to vote no on it just based on the ramifications and the complications of it," she said.
Inside the church, polling supervisor Sheila Sheppard said voter turnout had been steady throughout the day.
Many primary voters said they weren't drawn to vote by a candidate or an issue, but because they see it as a duty. Voters Don VanverHaar, Carnetta VanverHaar and Callahan all said they try to vote in every election.
"It's my responsibility as an involved citizen," Callahan said. "I can't complain if I don't vote."
2:15 p.m., Chesterfield
Nancy and Richard Kersting, both of Chesterfield, arrived at Parkway West Middle School polling place, located in the school's library, around 11:45 a.m. just as a line of six people formed behind them.
"I was surprised by the number of cars in the parking lot," said Nancy Kersting.
While Parkway West Middle School is one of the busier polling places in the area, Melissa Hewing, an election official from Ballwin, said voters had been coming and going "in spurts." The polling place emptied just as quickly as the six-person line had formed minutes before.
Hewing said the busiest times were between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. and then right before noon -- and for a primary election, turnout had been fairly decent so far.
Nancy Kersting said she was compelled to vote in the primary election not because of the candidates but because of her support for the religious-freedom amendment on the ballot. Her husband of 61 years, Richard Kersting, also voted in support of the amendment.
"There's too many trying to fight religion in this country already," he said.
And while voters all agreed the issues were important, Joe Coleman of Chesterfield said he believed the act of voting itself is equally important. While talking with friends and expressing frustration is one thing, he said he thinks voting, even in the primary election, would push for change.
"People need to pay attention to who is in control and who is in office ... and then vote," he said.
He said Amendment 2, or the so-called "prayer amendment" on the ballot, was his biggest incentive to vote Tuesday.
2 p.m., Bridgeton
It was lunch hour at the Bridgeton Community Center, but instead of voters stopping by the polls on their lunch break, canvasser Jerry Soderblom said she had only seen senior citizens arriving for lunch.
"A lot of gym bags. They've been coming with pies. Coming in on wheel chairs," Soderblom said.
It was Soderblom's first time canvassing the polls. She had been in Bridgeton since the polls opened at 6 a.m., handing out fliers and beads on behalf of state Rep. Eileen McGeoghegan. The flier highlighted McGeoghegan's work to preserve property tax rebates for seniors. Large block lettering atop the handout read "Tax Rebate For Seniors." Several pictures of seniors appeared on both sides.
A bake sale was going on inside the community center. A floor below, lunch was being served, and down a long inclined walkway, polling was taking place in a smallish room. Poll officials said that the flow has been steady, nothing too different than a normal primary.
Back outside, Soderblom said she was surprised by the low turnout.
"I would think people would want change because, boy, the way things are going, I just think that they would. I would have thought more people would show up," she said, adding that she did not mind waiting around outside when it meant getting a suntan.
1:33 p.m., Kirkwood
John Brunner, one of three major Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate, told reporters this morning he was “cautiously optimistic’’ about his chances, as he and his family left their polling place in the Kirkwood school district office on Manchester.
Brunner, a businessman, admitted that he’d voted for himself -– and then launched into a brief reprise of his campaign speech, in which he cites his service as a Marine and his experience running the now-sold family business, Vi-Jon.
Brunner also added a few jabs at the Democratic incumbent, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who, ironically, also cast her vote in Kirkwood, at a different polling place.
In fact, the two were among three major statewide candidates – the third was Dave Spence, a GOP candidate for governor – who cast ballots today from Kirkwood polling places.
“That’s kind of amazing when you think about it,’’ said state Rep. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, who accompanied Brunner to the polls.
Stream said that McCaskill has resided in his district for years, but that’s changing with this election, as a result of redistricting.
From what he’s seen at the Kirkwood polls so far, Stream predicts that far more Republicans will turn out for today’s primary. The reason is obvious, he added. “We have contests up and down the ticket.”
Democrats only have a few – and none, apparently, in Kirkwood.
1:09 p.m., Affton
The polling place at the Affton Community Centera was quiet and easily accessible this morning. Inside were mostly elderly voters. The south county polling station has had a steady turnout, election worker Rick Weber said. Weber, who has worked the polls for a few years, said the primary turnout has been what he expected.
"It's pretty much about the same," he said. "(There isn't a) passionate issue, but there are quite a few people coming out."
The only issue he and other poll workers had heard talk of was Amendment 2, the so-called "prayer amendment."
"That's the only one I've been hearing," poll worker Mary Glasener said. "Several people have said they just want to vote so they can pray in school."
One of those voters was Lorie Vogel, who said while she always votes, Amendment 2 was a pulling issue. Both she and her husband, Don, came out to vote on the amendment.
"It's just the right thing to do," she said. "Ever since I was little, it's been a part of my life, and I think they should still have (prayer in schools)."
The Vogels were sure of their stances on issues but had little faith in the candidates. As independents, they were frustrated with a primary system that requires voters to choose one party.
"It's hard because there's a split," Lorie Vogel said. "It's like some Republicans we were liking, and some Democrats we were liking, but it's kind of like, What do you want? Democrat or Republican?"
Commenting on the campaign, the couple said negative campaign ads have been not only distracting, but disheartening.
"It's so hard to vote nowadays because there's so much trash talking," Don Vogel said. "It's like, I don't want to vote for them, but then you see somebody else and you don't want to vote for them either."
Another voter, Joe Berliner, was also frustrated having to choose candidates within one party.
"One thing to say to Missouri, you should be able to vote a split ticket," he said. "I'm a registered independent, but I have to vote 100 percent Republican or 100 percent Democrat (in the primary). You're forced to vote one way or another. So, I have a list of people I don't like and I have to pick between them."
Despite what they considered unsatisfactory options, Joe and his wife Shirley Berlinger weren't deterred from the polls. As a life-long voter, Shirley said it would take much more to keep her from casting her vote.
"I can't ever remember not voting," she said.
11:47 a.m., St. Louis
When Ed Martin pulled up to St. Mark’s Church with three of his children, he was expecting to cast a ballot for himself and other Republican hopefuls at a polling place where he had voted for years.
But the St. Louis lawyer – who is favored to win the Republican primary for attorney general – found out his polling place moved to Nottingham Middle School, situated a few blocks away on a corner of Francis Park. After corralling his kids into a black SUV, he voted about 10 minutes later – even letting his daughter Madeline place his ballot into the counting machine.
Martin’s primary with Livingston County Prosecutor Adam Warren was a low-key affair, much less contentious than the combative GOP primaries for the U.S. Senate or lieutenant governor. In an interview after he voted, Martin said his party will be able to coalesce when the primaries conclude.
He said many of the Republican candidates are “on the same side of the ledger” and have “too much at stake in Missouri and America to not come together.”
“My experience on the stump is that people are focused what’s going wrong right now and how we can get back to basics,” Martin said. “I think we’ll be fine. All three Senate candidates have really been running hard. All three have made pretty strong cases and succeeded in ways. So, the day after, I think we’ll be able to gather, and the same thing with the lieutenant governor.”
Asked which U.S. Senate candidate would be strongest for down-ballot candidates, Martin said all three contenders – U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and Frontenac businessman John Brunner -– bring strong attributes to help out the Republican ticket.
“More importantly again, Claire McCaskill is the issue,” said Martin, who previously had announced runs for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House before deciding to run for attorney general. “Any of them would be great and I’m looking forward to tomorrow morning.”
Attorney General Chris Koster is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
11:46 a.m., St. Louis
In groups of two or three, voters came through the doors of the Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club about once every 10 minutes or so here in the city's 1st Ward during the mid-morning hours. Though turnout appeared low, the canvassers outside were not discouraged.
"There's a lot of people who couldn't come in before work," said Dakota Kelly, a Democratic canvasser for local races. On the whole, she said, "[turnout] is coming on pretty good."
Of the voters here so far, most are older and predominantly female. Many said they were regular voters, the kind who come out to every election.
"It's a privilege that my people fought for, and I want to use it," Angel Springfield said.
Voters here were most energized by the race between U.S. Reps. Russ Carnahan and William Lacy Clay.
Seneca Morris, who works for the Department of Homeland Security and came to the polls in uniform, said he was siding with Carnahan to protect his job.
"They're trying to privatize my job," he said. "I know Carnahan is for my job."
Both Morris, 36, and Tonye Jones, 34, said they were first-time primary voters who hoped their votes would help strengthen President Barack Obama.
"My mother told me that these are the people you vote in to help the president on the Democratic side," Jones said. "Basically these people count. Everything Obama's trying to do, [the Congress] is trying to go against, so maybe they can help him."
11:45 a.m., Hazelwood
Pricilla Harris is a staunch Democrat. She said so as she sat under a yellow umbrella outside Hazelwood Central High School's polling center unfazed by the rising late-morning heat.
"I'm a Democrat, oh. yeah. All the time. 24 hours a day. 365 days a year—more if they add them," Harris said. "They need my support. Somebody's got to be out here, might as well be me."
As voters streamed by every couple minutes, Harris stood up and handed them a Democratic flyer featuring Claire McCaskill, William Lacy Clay, and Jay Nixon among other Democratic incumbents. Next to her, Kim Potts handed out flyers for Steve Webb, a Democratic candidate in for the Missouri House. John Youngblood, an EMT, had run out of fliers for Russ Carnahan but held a "Firefighters for Carnahan" poster.
Most voters accepted the fliers as they headed into the booth. When Robyn Hamlin, a Republican candidate for 1st congressional district, and Democratic state Senate hopeful Redditt Hudson showed up around 10 a.m., they shook the candidates' hands as well. But most casting a ballot here said they are not happy with their elected leaders and that the challengers are not much better.
"They're all politicians," said Orville Ives as he walked back to his car. "They do too much negative advertising. They can't say anything good about themselves, so they just have to be negative about the other candidates."
Ives said he has been so upset by the negative advertising, he decided to vote in the Republican primary instead of the Democratic one he would usually choose.
"It's kind of like picking the lesser of two evils. I'm not real happy with any of them," said Steve Kasselmann as he left the polls with his wife. Both parties are at fault he said, and people are getting upset.
"All the rancor and the noncooperative angry politicians. Nothing gets done and people are fed up with it. We need change."
11:23 a.m., University City
The Music Center on Trinity Avenue was fairly busy around midday. In University City, residents were voting for several contested races, including the 1st congressional district race between U.S. Reps. William Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan and the state representative race between Susan Carlson and Stacey Newman.
“I always vote. So you know I’m always interested in whatever race is happening. The options were very hard because of Clay and Carnahan and Newman and Carlson, and they’re all good legislators,” Genise Self said.
Voters both young and old said they felt a duty to vote whether or not they were excited by their choices. Some even brought children along to set a good example, they said, or to show them how to vote.
“Well I always vote and I don’t like the (prayer) amendment vote,” Niels Jensen said, referring to Amendment 2. “I was not enthusiastic about it but I’m always ready to support my party.”
While some residents said that the primary would produce a low turnout, others thought the tightly contested races might bring out slightly larger numbers.
“You know, for this polling place, [turnout] is always very high; it’s one of the highest in the county, I think. I’m encouraged by that, that people in my neighborhood feel strong enough about it to vote,” Blake Hoel said. “I’m hoping that everybody who can does. I’m sure it will probably be pretty minimal, but it’s at least people who are interested come out.”
10:45 a.m., St. Louis
The polling place at the St. Louis Activity Center on Arsenal experienced light turnout Tuesday morning. The poll manager on site, who didn't want to give his name, said that most voters were elderly citizens. He said the individuals involved in the center's programs also voted before their classes.
Voters walking into the center are greeted by a group of friendly poll workers. Ric Cole is supporting Rio Vitale for state representative; Cole met Vitale through his involvement in the bocce club on the Hill and said Vitale is very much in tune with Cole's ideas.
"He is very involved and committed to bettering the community and a more cultural community," Cole said.
Julie Dinkelmann was supporting Brian Wahby for city treasurer. "He is a great guy," she said. "He is very smart and he will get the job done."
At St. Vincent's Church in LaSalle Park, Democratic poll manager Lois DeLine said they have had a steady stream all morning but are expecting a heavier turnout after 5 p.m. Generally, the younger people who live in the area will come out to vote once they get off of work. She also said she expects a slightly heavier crowd around lunchtime. During the morning hours, the majority of voters were the elderly people who live in the senior apartments across the street.
9:41 a.m., St. Louis
At the Barr Branch Library in St. Louis' 6th ward, Michael Teale, who has worked as an election judge for 20 years, including several at the Barr location, said turnout so far was better than he expected.
"It's actually better than the March or April elections," he said. In about an hour's span in the morning, about 15 to 20 people went inside to vote -- although some had come to the wrong polling place.
Bonzell Ceasar, who said he votes in all the primary elections, was drawn mainly by the race between Carnahan and Clay. Ceasar, a longtime Clay supporter, said he wasn't sure why Carnahan was encroaching on Clay's support in this district.
"If [Carnahan] was somewhere else, I would have voted for him," he said. "But when he's coming here and running against someone I've voted for for years," he couldn't, he said.
Outside, three people sat on lawn chairs distributing fliers, including Ben Wessels, who was there supporting his father, Fred Wessels, for city treasurer.
"I feel like anyone could win," Ben said about his father's race. "[And] anyone could lose badly."
9 a.m., Richmond Heights
The Veterans of Foreign Wars hall stood largely empty on Tuesday morning. Many of those who came to vote stopped to chat with the lone canvasser, who was working for state representative candidate Susan Carlson.
Although they seemed unsurprised by what they considered a low turnout, many who did show up seemed excited to cast their votes.
“It’s a privilege and an honor,” Dawn Castillo of Maplewood said about voting. “My husband comes from a Communist country, became a citizen in 1968, and it’s a privilege. Everyone should do it.”
At one point, the quiet was broken when a voter, who didn't want her name used, said the election judges gave her the wrong ballot. She didn’t realize the mistake until she had begun to fill out the ballot. When she finished, she called the Election Board, which confirmed her district was different from the ballot she received.
“I kept getting literature from Gina Mitten and James Trout, so those people are usually very on top of who’s in their district. Those people are in the 83rd, but they gave me the ballot for the 87th,” the voter said.
Election officials inside the hall said they give voters the ballot that corresponds with their address and she must have been mistaken.
Others expressed frustration over the choice in the 1st congressional district where the race between U.S. Reps. William Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan is expected to be close.
“I’m real sick of voting against people instead of for people,” Jane Smith of Maplewood said. The turnout is “not that good, it never is. It’s never as good as it should be,” she added.
8 a.m., Kirkwood
A little after 8 a.m. Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill arrived at Kirkwood High School with her two daughters Maddie and Lily to cast their votes in the primary election. Soon after, the Democratic U.S. senator made her way outside to the parking lot where she snapped an Instagram photo of her daughters, later posting it online via Twitter.
While McCaskill is unopposed in the Democratic primary, it will be a different story in the fall. Her bid for re-election is expected to be one of the fiercest U.S. Senate competitions in the nation, according to Beyond November.
Cathy Bailey, 53, a resident of Kirkwood, cast her vote shortly after McCaskill left. While primary elections are known for low voter turnout, Bailey said her opposition to the proposed "prayer amendment" to the Missouri constitution compelled her to visit the polling place Tuesday morning. She described Amendment 2 as "unnecessary."
"(The rights to religious freedom) are already protected by the U.S. Constitution and Missouri's state constitution," she said.
The bill would allow students to opt out of assignments that go against their religious beliefs as well as protect public prayer. Bailey said it's hit-or-miss as to whether she makes it out to vote in primary elections. It depends on whether there's an important issue on the ballot, she said.
7:45 a.m., Berkeley
Kunle Solar stood outside of Airport Elementary handing out flyers on behalf of his friend and state House candidate Courtney Curtis, who is running in the 73rd district. Solar, like most who showed up to cast their ballot here this morning, is a regular voter, but he said he probably wouldn't be at this particular primary without a reason.
"This is one of the best registered sites in this district," Solar said, the rising sun glowing behind him. "It's just a matter of if they come or don't come."
By 7:45 a.m., the latter seemed more likely. With fewer than 20 people on the books and the typically busy before-work hours dwindling, the low primary turnoutpredicted across the area appeared to be meeting expectations in this small north St. Louis County community.
Among the voters who did trickle in before work, the vote was more about issues than particular candidates — even here in the 1st congressional district.
Janet Cheek was the 11th voter when she arrived shortly after 7 a.m. Cheek said she does not always vote in the smaller primaries, but this year is a different story.
"This was an important one," Cheek said. "This time, it's so divided. This time if we don't back who we think is important, there could be real problems."
Perry McCoy echoed Cheek's sentiment a few minutes later. He said he came to vote on the ballot issues and, hopefully, for the Green Party.
"I'm disappointed in the Republicans, the Democrats, the Independents — because of the turmoil in the Congress and way they're doing politics," McCoy said.
Cheek singled out the so-called "prayer amendment." Though she does not believe students should be forced to pray, she said she supports the option.
"So, yeah, I think if you want to pray over lunch, you should be able to," Cheek said. "But you shouldn't have to, either."
Angela Bayless seconded Cheek. She is a teacher in St. Louis and said she would like a chance to let religion into the classroom.
"I'm a teacher. A lot of students, they ask questions and they want to talk about God in school, and I can't give them an answer," Bayless said.
This story was reported and written by Beacon interns Abby Abrams, Josie Butler, Molly Duffy, Nick Fandos, Lauren Leone and Neel Thakkar as well as Beacon reporters Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum.