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American government features separation of powers at both the national and state levels. No single parliament for us. Instead, legislatures with two houses and independently elected executives are the preferred governance model. In addition, many states—including Missouri—have direct democracy: voters deciding themselves on referenda and initiatives.
That’s why the 2008 November ballot will be a long one. The founding fathers — and you — feared any one office having too much power. In states like Missouri, citizens also are reluctant to allow elected officials to make major taxing decisions. Instead, they retain that power for themselves.
In this general election, the typical St. Louis County voter will choose a President and Vice President, a U.S. Representative, five statewide officials including governor and attorney general, and a state representative. About half will also select a state senator. They will also approve or reject two Missouri constitutional amendments, three new Missouri laws, and four county-wide financial measures. Many will have school district bond and levy elections.
That’s almost twenty choices on both people and issues, on Obama versus McCain to a new energy policy for Missouri to the future of public transit in St. Louis County. If voting is the central act of democracy — and it is — then you will have ample opportunity to perform that act on November 4. Be prepared for your choices, be patient in line, be proud of our country.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Terry Jones is Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.