Absentee voting | St. Louis Public Radio

Absentee voting

State Rep. Kevin Windham, Jr., speaks during a February 2020 committee hearing.
Tim Bommel I House Communications

State Rep. Kevin Windham Jr. is the latest guest on "Politically Speaking." The Hillsdale Democrat talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum about how the Missouri Legislature expanded absentee balloting this session — and the prospects for policy change amid protests for police accountability.

Windham represents the 85th District, which takes in roughly 20 municipalities in central and north St. Louis County. When he won his seat in 2018 at age 25, he became the youngest African American man ever elected to the Missouri House.

The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments Monday on whether all eligible Missouri voters should be allowed to cast absentee ballots without having to get them notarized amid fears caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Democratic Secretary of State nominee Yinka Faleti
Courtesy of Yinka Faleti

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, Yinka Faleti, the Democratic nominee for secretary of state, joins the program to discuss his bid for the office, as well as the burgeoning protest movement for police accountability. 

Faleti’s appearance on the podcast kicks off an effort to have all of Missouri’s major statewide candidates on Politically Speaking. The two Democratic contenders for attorney general, Elad Gross and Rich Finneran, are slated to record episodes later this month — and we’ll be reaching out to GOP and Democratic candidates to be on the show in the coming weeks. 

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has approved a petition to allow Missouri voters to decide whether to expand Medicaid.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday signed legislation allowing people at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus to vote absentee without needing an additional notarized statement. 

“Any Missourian affected by COVID-19 should still be able to vote, including those who are sick or considered at-risk,” Parson said in a statement. “I applaud Senator Dan Hegeman, Representative Dan Shaul, and the rest of the legislature for taking this important step, which provides Missourians with a safe and secure way to vote while still safeguarding our elections and ballot process.”

Gov. Mike Parson answers a reporter's question at a press conference in Clayton on May 29, 2020.
David Kovaluk I St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Mike Parson said it made sense to give local governments like St. Louis County power to enact stricter coronavirus-related regulations than the rest of the state, saying a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for every corner of the state.

This comes as some St. Louis County residents have been criticizing County Executive Sam Page’s administration for not reopening certain businesses, such as gyms and fitness centers.

Illinois Approved A Mostly Vote-By-Mail Election For November. Here's How It Will Work

May 22, 2020
The Illinois Capitol in Springfield has been quiet all spring until the legislature reconvened last week.  April 2020
Ben Orner | Capitol News Illinois

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Lawmakers on Friday approved a bill that would expand Illinoisans’ ability to avoid the ballot box, and possibly coronavirus,in November.

The major expansion to vote by mail in Illinois law would only affect the Nov. 3 presidential election in an effort to keep voters safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers throw paper in the air on May 15, 2020, to celebrate the end of the 2020 Missouri legislative session.
Jaclyn Driscoll I St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers capped an unprecedented 2020 legislative session by expanding access to absentee ballots during a pandemic and passing a wide-ranging crime bill — even as other priorities failed to get final approval.

And while the session featured some major budget moves aimed at combating the coronavirus, lawmakers from both parties expressed frustration about missed opportunities — and how the legislative process unfolded.

File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As a mother, Katy Fechter said she makes it a point to bring her kids to the polls every election she votes in.

But this year, Fechter said, she may need to give up her right to vote to protect her son, who is considered high risk for contracting COVID-19 because of his asthma. That said, Fechter feels this presidential election is the most important one in her lifetime.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr, right, hands some papers to House Majority Leader Rob Vescovo earlier this month in Jefferson City.
Tim Bommel I House Communications

House Speaker Elijah Haahr is the latest guest on Politically Speaking. The Springfield Republican spoke with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jaclyn Driscoll about why the General Assembly is coming back into session on Monday — and what issues lawmakers plan to discuss.

Haahr, a Springfield Republican, became Missouri House speaker in 2019 after serving two years as House speaker pro tem. Term limits will bar Haahr from running again for his House seat.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.
The Missouri Secretary of State.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said today on St. Louis on the Air that he is convinced the “plain language” of state law does not allow voters to cast an absentee ballot simply because they fear the coronavirus. 

“There is no mention of someone that is scared of becoming sick … in which case it would not apply to a fear of the coronavirus,” he said.

But he vowed to have personal protective equipment in place for upcoming elections — and said he will not repeat Wisconsin’s mistakes. 

A voter fills out a ballot at Central Baptist Church on March 10, 2020.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft says lawmakers would be amenable to passing election legislation aimed at responding to coronavirus fears — after municipal elections were moved recently from April to June.

What changes would actually be made is still under discussion. Some ideas include broadening the use of absentee ballots and implementing a vote-by-mail program.

The line of St. Louis County voters seeking to cast absentee ballots on Saturday stretched across Deer Creek Plaza shopping center in Maplewood, where the county's only voting office is situated.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

A top St. Louis County elections official says this fall’s absentee balloting is in line with the turnout in 2012, despite the stunning long lines seen outside the county’s only balloting office.

On Saturday, the line of hundreds of potential voters stretched across Deer Creek Plaza, a shopping center that spans several blocks in Maplewood. Voting continued for some time after the 1 p.m. closing, because all voters in line at that time are by law allowed to vote.

Attorneys for Bruce Franks, Penny Hubbard, and employees with the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners examine absentee ballot envelopes during a court hearing on Sept. 1, 2016.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Area voter registration deadlines are fast approaching. Missouri voters must submit a completed application by the end of business on Oct. 12.

Stephanie Fleming, director of communications for Missouri's secretary of state says people can register in person, by mail or online.

Voting irregularities? Electionland is on the case

Oct 7, 2016
There is no act more central to a democracy than voting. Electionland is a project that will cover access to the ballot and problems that prevent people from exercising their right to vote during the 2016 election.
Courtesy ProPublica

Editor’s note: St. Louis Public Radio is participating in this national reporting initiative. You can help us monitor the voting process. Whether you are voting absentee, or waiting to go to your polling place on Nov. 8, you may sign up here to let us know about your voting experience.

Election Day is still a month away, but some Americans are already casting ballots. About 20 states and the District of Columbia have early voting programs, several of which have already begun. It’s estimated that about one-third of the country will have voted by the time polls open on Nov. 8.

The Electionland coalition is also beginning its work. We’ve started looking for problems that prevent eligible voters from exercising their right to cast a ballot before the polls close. Using a combination of social media posts, data about web search trends, and call center records from a coalition of election lawyers, we’ll be looking at the process of voting to help make sure that nobody is shut out because of long lines, improper procedures or inadequate resources.

St. Louis County's temporary absentee-voting office is in Maplewood's Deer Creek shopping center.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

With Missouri’s largest bloc of votes, St. Louis County often makes or breaks elections, determining which statewide candidates claim victory, and which ballot issues become law.

But with a St. Louis judge imposing more restrictions on absentee ballots, the impact in St. Louis County is significant – and may have statewide repercussions.

Bruce Franks Jr. speaks to his supporters after finding out he won the Sept. 16 special election for Missouri's 78th District House seat.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 10:45 p.m. with comments from Franks. -- The second time is the charm for Bruce Franks.

Franks, an activist and small business owner, defeated Penny Hubbard Friday night in a court-ordered re-do Democratic primary in the 78th House District.

St. Louis Democratic Elections director Mary Wheeler-Jones shows her phone to Board of Election Commissioners chairman Erv Switzer. The Board had a special meeting on Wednesday go over logistical details for a special election in the 78th House District.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

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.

Bruce Franks in court on Sept. 1, 2016.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 6:45 p.m. with comment from Dave Roland. - A St. Louis judge has ordered a re-do in a state House race marred by allegations of problems with absentee ballots.

Judge Rex Burlison set the new Democratic primary in the 78th House District for Sept. 16, the earliest date allowed by state law. The 78th covers a swath of eastern St. Louis, from just north of downtown to near the Anheuser-Busch brewery.

Doug Moore, a reporter with the st. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

The contested 78th House District race between Rep. Penny Hubbard and Bruce Franks came back into the spotlight this week as the first days of testimony about irregularities in the absentee ballots took place in front of Judge Rex Burlison in a downtown St. Louis courtroom.

Judge Rex Burlison (center) listens to attorneys on the first day of a trial to determine if there will be a new election in the 78th House District.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

On Aug. 5, 2016, incumbent state Rep. Penny Hubbard, D-78th District, beat challenger Bruce Franks by 90 votes. Her entire margin of victory came from absentee ballots.

Franks and his attorney, Dave Roland, sued in an an effort to force a new election, arguing that irregularities in the absentee ballots made the results invalid.

Jo Mannies/St. Louis Public Radio

Business was brisk Friday afternoon at the St. Louis County Election Board, where lines of people – most of them elderly --  were waiting to cast an absentee ballot for Tuesday’s primaries.

The line of people waiting to sign in stretched across the lobby of the board’s headquarters in Maplewood, and the parking lot directly outside was full much of the time. Some motorists had to wait for an open space.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 26, 2012 - Staff at the St. Louis County Election Board say they don’t want a repeat of 2008, when would-be absentee voters lined up for blocks – rain or shine – as they waited to cast ballots at the board’s headquarters in Maplewood.

This time, the board has set up dozens of voting machines in a nearby warehouse in the same multi-building complex.  The building has a large “Vote” sign across the top.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 13, 2010 - St. Louis County Republican Party chairman Rich Magee asserted Saturday that something needs to be done in Missouri to curb the rising popularity of absentee voting.

Based on the lines of would-be absentee voters he saw at the St. Louis County Election Board before the 2008 election, Magee said that he doubted that all met the state's strict requirements for casting absentee votes. The handful of allowed reasons include the voter's belief that they won't be in their voting jurisdiction on Election Day.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 10, 2008 - Missouri is an attractive destination for presidential candidates and their surrogates for an obvious reason: Polls show the swing state is more up for grabs now than at any other time in the campaign.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 10, 2008 - St. Louis residents who opened what looked like a mailing from the Board of Election Commissioners probably were surprised that their application for an absentee ballot had a blatant political message on top -- Vote for Jay Nixon for governor.