Kander urges continued investigation into 78th District absentee ballots | St. Louis Public Radio

Kander urges continued investigation into 78th District absentee ballots

Sep 7, 2016

The Missouri secretary of state’s office is urging St. Louis’ prosecuting attorney to keep investigating absentee ballots from a state House primary.

Democrat Jason Kander, who is also running for U.S. Senate, released his brief report on the 78th House District on Wednesday.

"While the review [by the Elections Integrity Unit] did not provide sufficient evidence to warrant a formal probable cause statement, based on the circumstances, we are forwarding our findings to the U.S. Attorney and St. Louis Circuit Attorney to assist in their ongoing investigations," Kander wrote. He urged the circuit attorney, Jennifer Joyce, to "review each absentee ballot cast in the primary election to determine if there were any violations of election laws" and file charges as needed.

Last week, Judge Rex Burlison ordered a new Democratic primary between incumbent Penny Hubbard and challenger Bruce Franks, ruling that the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners had broken state law by allowing individuals to vote absentee in person using electronic voting machines or optical scan ballots. That new election is scheduled for Sept. 16 — the Missouri Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on Monday.

Because of the quick turnaround time for the Sept. 16 primary contest, members of the reconstituted St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners met on Wednesday to go over logistical arrangements for next week’s election.

One big change is that touch-screen machines won’t be available for 78th District residents who want to vote absentee at the Board of Elections headquarters.

That’s because one of the biggest reasons for the redo election was that in-person absentee ballots weren’t being placed in envelopes. While touch-screen machines do record a voter’s preferences on a small roll of paper, the devices cannot physically print a ballot that can placed in an envelope.

“We will not have the touch screens available for absentee ballot voting,” Switzer told reporters after the board’s meeting. “But what we’re going to do is make sure that it’s easy and accessible, especially for the disabled.”

Switzer said if somebody is on the permanently disabled voting list, they should be receiving a notice soon — and will subsequently be able to request an absentee ballot. He also said that if a disabled individual wants to vote at the Board of Election headquarters, staffers will accommodate them.

“If it requires staying in the vehicle, we will have people come out and they can vote in their vehicle,” Switzer said.

The Board of Elections created a web page providing more information about how the 78th District do-over election will proceed. Voters can cast an absentee ballot starting on Thursday, Sept. 8 through Thursday, Sept. 15. Switzer said the Board of Elections will try to certify the election expeditiously to meet a number of state deadlines.

“We are looking to certify our election over the weekend,” Switzer said. “I had a chance to talk with Secretary of State Jason Kander, who said he will turn around the certification very quickly. The end game on that is military absentee ballots are supposed to be available on Sept. 23, so we need the certification quickly enough that we can have a [general election] absentee ballot available for military personnel.”

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann 

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum