Some voting problems reported in Missouri
News Leader Associated Press 07 November 2006
Maplewood, Mo. University of Missouri-St. Louis students Amber Rodebaugh and Stephen McCoy said it took more than three hours and four polling places to cast their votes today.
The St. Louis County couple said the supervisor of their polling place in the St. Louis suburb of Overland couldn't find their names in her book of registered voters. It was among several problems statewide today as poll officials reported long lines and in some cases an insufficient number of ballots.
After going to nearby St. Ann and back to Overland, Rodebaugh and McCoy were told to use provisional ballots. They refused, fearing the ballot wouldn't be counted. They finally went to the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners in Maplewood, which told them the Overland poll supervisor searched the wrong place in her book for their names.
"I saw a stack of about 25 provisional ballots," Rodebaugh said. "The supervisor said she'd been doing that all day."
Denise Lieberman, statewide coordinator with the Advancement Projects Voter Protection initiative, said some voting troubles were resolved early shortage of ballots and removing signs that said signature identification cards were required, among them.
But other problems persisted. Lieberman said many valid voters in St. Louis County were instructed to cast provisional ballots when poll workers couldn't reach the Board of Elections by phone to verify voter eligibility.
"In some cases they were sent to headquarters to check eligibility, and were not allowed to vote there, even though the law provides they should be able," Lieberman said.
The few problems reported in St. Louis city were promptly addressed, Lieberman said.
By law, provisional ballots will not be counted if they're cast in the wrong polling place.
"We want assurance those ballots will be counted," she said.
In some polling places where optical scanners weren't working, election judges were putting ballots in a pile presumably to be scanned later, said Lieberman.
John Diehl, chairman of the St. Louis County Board of Elections, said he had not heard of significant problems and said the "vast majority" of Lieberman's claims were "untrue."
With about 450 polling places, 3,500 poll workers and 2,200 pieces of equipment, he said any glitches were being addressed quickly. He said the biggest problem was delays caused by lack of experience replacing paper rolls on voting machines.
The most common complaint from voters in Kansas City was a shortage of pencils to fill out paper ballots and pencil sharpeners, said Edward Hailes, an attorney with Advancement Project.
Heavy voter turnout in Jasper County left the county with insufficient ballots for its optical scanner machines at a number of polls. The county made photocopies of the ballots, which will have to be hand counted.
"That will slow us down big time," County Clerk Ron Mosbaugh said.
Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's spokeswoman, Stacie Temple, said it appeared voter turnout was high around the state.
Temple said the office wasn't aware of any widespread problems, but said there were some scattered issues in St. Louis County, including poll workers wrongly requiring voters to provide an identification with a photo or a signature, which aren't needed by law.
When the office got a complaint, workers contacted the local election authority "and clarified again what the requirements were," she said.
Also, some county polling places' ballot counting machines broke down, so people had to submit their ballots in a box to be counted later.
"There were some glitches. In some places perhaps higher turnout than normal may have contributed to that," Temple said. "Overall, it seems things went smoothly."