LA RUSSELL, Mo. -- Local elections in April generally attract few voters but a small southwest Missouri town hit a new low this week when not one of its 70 residents cast a ballot.
Jasper County Clerk Charlie Davis said his office checked several times to confirm that no votes were cast Tuesday in La Russell in an election to decide if it should annex itself into the Avilla Fire Protection District.
La Russell voters have to travel 7 miles (11 kilometers) to Sarcoxie to vote and there apparently was little publicity and few reminders about the election, The Joplin Globe reported. La Russell is about 160 miles (260 kilometers) south of Kansas City.
John Carver, a resident of La Russell for 50 years, said he didn’t see any flyers about the election.
“I worked until 10 p.m.,” Carver said. “It was too late to drive to Sarcoxie to vote. I work in the field and do whatever, run parts for semis, whatever it takes to keep things going. Plus, hardly anyone knew about the vote.”
Deborah Burton, La Russell city clerk and wife of Mayor Rick Burton, said her husband was in the hospital until Wednesday after he became ill last week.
“I was there with him, so I guess we didn’t throw up the flag and let everyone know there was an election, so nobody went,” she said. “I don’t know what to think.”
The main ballot question was whether La Russell should annex itself into the Avilla Fire Protection District. With no voters, the question failed, Davis said.
Burton said she and her husband helped gather signatures in December and January to put the question on the ballot and “Everyone said they were all for it and they would vote.”
Avilla fire Chief Tim Gunter said his district has provided a truck and local volunteers at a small station in La Russell for years. But when Avilla voters created a property tax-funded fire district in June 2020, it raised the question of whether he could use Avila tax dollars to protect La Russell.
After consulting with the fire district’s board and attorneys, Gunter said Wednesday that La Russell will continue to have fire protection until the issue can be put back on the ballot in a future election.
The only other issue was two seats on the La Russell board of trustees, which drew two candidates.
Davis said the board of trustees will have to consult state law to decide how the two open seats will be filled.