With two weeks before the November 4th general election, Republican Shane Schoeller and Democrat Rusty Aton prepare to build upon their cases for Greene County’s new clerk in a debate this evening. KSMU’s Julie Greene has more.
A major key within the county clerk’s office is making sure all eligible voters have the opportunity and information they need to vote. It’s one aspect of the job both candidates say they’ll work to address if elected.
A native of Branson, Shane Schoeller lives in Willard with his wife Mendie and their three children. A proud NRA and Missouri Farm Bureau supporter, Schoeller served as speaker pro tem in the state House of Representatives for three terms.
Schoeller says one of his first priorities as clerk would be to form a citizen’s advisory group to review what citizens like and dislike about elections in Greene County.
“I think it’s always important to get input, especially when you’re newly elected, just to hear from the folks and say what is the process that you have experienced and how do you think it can be improved or bettered,” Schoeller said.
Schoeller also intends to look at Greene County’s election equipment, which he says is three to five years away from needing to be replaced.
“I think that is an important role of the county clerk, to make sure you get the best election equipment possible, to make sure that everyone feels comfortable with the election equipment that you use as well making sure those who have disabilities, making sure that they’re comfortable with the election equipment too, and that’d be something I’d like to work together with the citizen’s advisory group,” Schoeller said.
Schoeller’s opponent, Rusty Aton, has also expressed concern for Greene County’s voting equipment.
He suggests utilizing new electronic voting technologies within the next two to four years. Aton says this election equipment would help combat Greene County’s low voter turnout, which he says is one of the issues he plans to focus on if elected.
“The more we can make things streamlined, efficient and easy for people, the more likely they are to vote,” Aton said.
A lifelong resident of Greene County, Aton currently serves as the director of Ozarks Financial Services in Springfield, where he lives with his wife, Athena.
“The reason why I’m running for clerk is because I think the clerk’s office should be a nonpartisan position, and I think that everyone’s right to vote should be protected regardless of what their political stance is, what political party they identify with…I believe I am the one that is most able to fairly and accurately give people the dignity and respect they deserve when it comes to the electoral process,” Aton said.
Richard Struckhoff, current Greene County clerk, says planning the last election he’ll oversee in his 27 years of service is bittersweet.
“It’s always exciting to be planning an election, and this one is no different, just trying to stay focused has been interesting for me personally, but you can’t help but think this is the last time I’m going to do this, and this is the last time I’m going to do that. But it’s been a very interesting year for us,” Struckhoff said.
Struckhoff says voter turnout this year is expected to be quite low.
“I don’t think we’ll hit the level we hit four years ago. Four years ago in Greene County, we had 46 percent turnout, and this one is looking more like 40 percent, which apparently, is a trend nationwide. Some of the stories I’ve read from the national media are indicating that turnout is expected to be lower than four years ago, and possibly a record-breaking low for an off-year election,” Struckhoff said.
Hosted by the League of Women Voters, tonight’s debate between Schoeller and Aton will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Kenneth E. Meyer Alumni Center in downtown Springfield.