CES Updates

Meet Us in St. Louis: Getting to Know the Gateway to Democracy

Amidst the “In the Lou” BBQ Festival, Oktoberfest, and the final Cardinals game before the MLB playoffs, another big event took place in St. Louis, MO this past weekend. The entire staff and board of directors of The Center for Election Science converged on STL for our annual retreat.

The annual retreat is a chance for our organization to review our current operations and future strategy, while also bonding and socializing with one another in-person (important for our totally virtual nonprofit!). We had strategy sessions, did some sight-seeing, and even used our brains and teamwork to solve an escape room in 40 minutes!

This year, the retreat was also a chance for us to get to know the home of our next approval voting campaign—the city we’ve come to refer to as “The Gateway to Democracy”.

Our partners at STL Approves, the grassroots organization running the political side of the campaign, have been making some major headway toward implementing approval voting in St. Louis, and we were excited to hear more about their work on the ground.

With the help of many dedicated volunteers, STL Approves has gathered over 7,000 signatures toward getting approval voting on the ballot (thanks in part to the $75,000 grant our generous donors helped us provide to get their campaign off the ground).

We’re pretty confident that approval voting will make the ballot, and STL Approves is also making in-roads with important local stakeholder groups. The campaign has even received the endorsement of the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis!

The Center for Election Science and STL Approves teams at lunch
The CES and STL Approves teams enjoying lunch together at Pi Pizza.

One thing we know for sure—we and our partners at STL Approves need more data to be able to run an effective campaign. Once the initiative makes the ballot, every St. Louisan needs to understand the benefits of approval voting. We have to find a way to make sure our message reaches all of them.

That’s why we’ve decided to conduct a poll asking St. Louisans about their feelings on approval voting. The information gathered from this poll will help us meet folks in STL where they are and educate them on approval voting in a way that makes sense to them.

Old Courthouse and the Gateway Arch, as seen from the “In the Lou” BBQ Festival.

St. Louis is a diverse city with its own unique challenges. Over the past five years, the city has been rocked by racial tensions after the shooting of Michael Brown and subsequent riots in Ferguson. In 2019, there were talks of merging the governments of the city of St. Louis with nearby St. Louis County (an initiative was ultimately unsuccessful). Major local businesses, like Anheuser-Busch, have reduced their presence in the city, leading to economic stagnation.

The citizens of STL have also experienced 20 elections in the past 5 years that have resulted in a candidate winning without majority support. In 5 of those elections, the winner earned less than 30% of the vote.

In order to help St. Louisans understand how approval voting can benefit them, it’s crucial for us to know what is important to St. Louisans. It’s important to know the struggles they’re currently facing and what values they hold dear.

It’s clear that the city needs this reform, and local advocates have eloquently laid out their case. With so many issues on the minds of the residents of St. Louis, we need to find a way to break through and help them understand that with approval voting, there’s hope for a better future and a stronger democracy. Polling will help us do that.

Would you like to contribute to help us refine our messaging and reach as many St. Louisans as possible? Every dollar helps bring better elections to St. Louis.