Missouri's voter turnout earlier this month was lower than four years ago.

What is perhaps one of the most anticipated election days in the modern history of the United States will come to pass in less than a week.

From 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, citizens of Texas County will gather at 10 different polling locations to cast their votes that will determine the winners in races for a variety of government positions and decide the fate of several societal issues. Around the country, polls will be open for 17 hours, beginning at 6 a.m. Eastern Standard Time and concluding at 8 p.m. Pacific.

Of course, not all voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, as many will vote by way of absentee balloting. Missouri is one of 20 states that require citizens to provide valid reasons for their inability to vote in person, while 28 are “no excuse” states and require no reason for absence. Two others – Oregon and Washington – conduct all elections by a mail system and therefore have no need for absentee balloting.

But however votes get into the mix, this year’s election figures to be at very least interesting, especially after a campaign season that was in large part characterized by its wild and wooly nature. In fact, many people seem to agree that those characteristics – and the accompanying “mudslinging” – were ratcheted up several notches during this election season compared to those of the past.

Texas County sheriff Carl Watson and Houston mayor Don Tottingham are both local elected officials who are not involved in this year’s election. They each took some time to answer a few questions related to the upcoming election.

How do you feel about the importance of this year’s election?

•Watson: “I think it’s an important election year. There are a lot of important issues out there, like the economy and gas prices – which is something that affects us all. From the national level down to the county level, it’s a year with a lot of issues we need to deal with, and certainly vote the way we feel about them. But with every election, there are issues that will affect us all for a number of years. But I’ve voted every year since I was in the military, so at least I don’t have anything to gripe about.”

•Tottingham: “I feel that all elections are very important, and presidential election years are even more important. But I think that this year is extremely important.

First of all, the United States has a lot of financial problems that are going to have to be addressed, or we’re going to have real problems in the future. I think we have a lot of issues with immigration that pose problems as well, and even thought I‘m a 22-year veteran of the Navy, I’m opposed to war. I feel like there are better ways to handle things than to kill a bunch of people in a war, and I think that being involved in conflicts all over the world is something we need to seriously look at as a nation.

Statewide, I think things are run pretty well. I like Governor Nixon, and I think the people have done a good job in the past.

I don’t have a ton of opinion on the local elections. Most of the time, you have pretty good people running and who wins doesn’t have a huge effect on things. Sometimes it does – there are sometimes issues that would make a difference – but normally not. Local positions are important to us, but they’re not going to change the complexion of everything.

But whether you agree with one side or the other, there are always issues that are important to each person.

How would you describe the atmosphere of this year’s campaign season?

•Watson: “Absolutely the dirtiest I’ve ever seen. And not only from what’s happening in our own county, but on the other levels as well. When it comes to mudslinging, there are no boundaries there any more.”

•Tottingham: “I think it’s always ugly, and I would really prefer that people would talk about the issues or what they’re going to do rather than running one another down. On the other hand, I think you sometimes find out stuff about people that you wouldn’t know otherwise. You might think someone is a good candidate, and then something comes to light that makes you think they might not be so good. I think there’s value in that.”

What do you think some of the effects of this election will be?

•Watson: “It’s something we’re going to have to live with for many years, at the county, state and national level. Whoever is elected is going to be there for whatever their term might be, and we’ll have to live with the decisions they make, whether it’s good or bad.”

•Tottingham: “From a national standpoint, I don’t feel real good about either presidential candidate. But we have to realize it takes a lot of money to be a candidate, so often times someone who would make a great candidate doesn’t have the backing or the money to even consider it.

I do think, though, that we need some changes nationally. We can’t continue to spend money and keep moving our ceiling up and expect to have any kind of a good future. I’m real concerned about that, and the present administration isn’t doing a good job. But the previous administration was from the other party and they didn’t do such a good job, either.

So I don’t know what to expect nationally, but I hope that we come to our senses and do things that reduce our deficit and our dependence on other people – whether it be money or fuel, or whatever.

Statewide, I anticipate things to stay about the same, and as I said, I think Missouri is run pretty well.”

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