Saturday, November 6, 2010

Did Voter Suppression Steal A Democratic State Senate Seat?

Barbara Fraser, a Democrat running to replace Joan Bray in Missouri's 24th State Senate district, lost to Republican John Lamping by only 172 votes out of 60,000 cast. However, the 24th district includes the Washington University dorms and surrounding area, and there were serious problems reported at those sites. Students who had voted two years ago had been taken off the voting rolls, and these students were not provided with provisional ballots as they should have been. Student Life reports:
Some students who voted on the South 40 in 2008 did not show up as registered voters on Tuesday, even if they had not notified the state of a change of address.

The voting rolls should have listed them as “inactive voters” on Tuesday.

Inactive voters are those who have not voted recently and may have a change of address.

Inactive status is partially determined by notification cards that the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners sends out over the summer to confirm that registered voters kept their addresses.

Many students’ cards were returned to the Board undelivered because they moved off campus or had a change of address.

When these cards come back to the Board of Election Commissioners, the voters should have been put onto an inactive voter list.
The article continues:
This did not happen for some students who voted on the South 40 in 2008 and did not re-register to a new address. Instead, they were taken off the voting lists entirely.

“The students say they voted two years ago at Wash. U., so they should be registered. The judge says that over the summer Wash. U. returned a bunch of update cards that the Board of Elections had given out, and they did a dump of all the names,” said Loretta Haggard, a volunteer with the Democratic Voter Protection Effort who was outside Ursa’s on election day. “I think that they should have been put on an inactive list.”

Senior Liz Nylund was in line at the South 40 polling place because she voted there in 2008. She had moved since then, but was hoping that the people working there would help her.

The girl in front of her was in the same situation and had voted on the South 40 as recently as 2009.

“[The supervisors at the South 40 polling place] were trying to find her in the system and they couldn’t find her,” Nylund said of the other girl in line. “They told her she couldn’t vote today.”
And in fact the poll workers were told by the Board of Elections not to give out provisional ballots, which should have allowed the students to vote:
The poll workers were told by someone at the Board of Election Commissioners Tuesday morning not to give out any provisional ballots, according to Polly Guth, a supervisor at the South 40 polling place.

These orders were reversed when the poll workers asked again at around 4:30 p.m.

According to Donahue, the Board of Election Commissioners is investigating why no provisional ballots were given out earlier in the day.

“We are doing an investigation of that comment here at our office,” Donahue said.
Phone calls made to the board of election were not answered. When the editor of the StudLife Kate Gaertner went to the polling place to investigate and ask questions, the police were called and she was escorted away:
She explained that she got a call at around 5:10 p.m. Tuesday that students were being turned away, they weren't allowed to cast a vote, and weren't being offered the option to fill out a provisional ballot. She called a Washington University adjunct professor and voters' rights attorney, Denise Lieberman.

"There are no circumstances that I can envision in which these voters should have been denied at the least an opportunity to cast a provisional ballot," Lieberman said. "Provisional ballots exist as an avenue of a last resort for people who eligibility can't be immediately established."

"And I saw four kids in a row get turned away," said junior Robert Pino.

Gaertner went to get the numbers - how many registered voters can vote here, how many did, and how many provisional ballots were filled out - all of which Lieberman said are a matter of public record.

The senior explained then that all the questions prompted poll workers' call to police.

"I was just on the phone with a lawyer," she said she told poll officials. "She said we have a right to this information, we can press charges if you don't give it to us."

In the end, she was escorted off campus and Robert Pino saw no resolution.
The Washington University dorm area is also in Missouri's Third Congressional District, where Congressman Russ Carnahan won a close race against Ed Martin. Students at Wash U overwhelmingly vote Democratic: a 2008 poll showed that students preferred Obama to McCain 78%-15%, with nearly 90% voting for Obama in 2008. With the turned away voters, only about 400 out of the 1800 registered voters in the Wash U precinct voted on Tuesday.

This is not the first time students at Washington University have been disenfranchised. In 2002, poll workers also refused to give students provisional ballots. In 2004, students were inexplicably only allowed to use 3 out of 13 available voting machines, which led to 2 hour waits. In 2006, students who were registered to vote were also left off voter rolls. In 2006, when some students went to the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners office, where they could cast a regular ballot, Joseph Goeke, the current Republican Director of the St. Louis County Board of elections, originally told them to go back to their polling location then said they'd have to stand outside because they were "rowdy."

The St. Louis County Board of Elections is also no stranger to sketchy events off-campus. In 2008, there were ridiculously long lines and voting problems in areas with high African-American populations. Goeke ignored election protection activists who told him that the county was not providing enough ballots and claimed to have not known about 6 hour waits in one of his polling locations until he spoke with a Post-Dispatch reporter at 4 PM. In 2006, the County Board of Elections combined four precincts into one location in Democratic University City, resulting in four hour waits.

With a razor thin margin of 172 votes in the original voting tallies (and with provisional ballots still needing to be counted), this incident needs to be seriously investigated.


  1. To do list for September 2012: Voter registration drive at Wash. U. to be complete before the October deadline for registrations. This is unacceptable and obvious voter suppression by the Republicants.

  2. can this be contested in court?

  3. This is really disappointing to hear. The ironic thing, at least with regard to Ed Martin, is that the state wide database may have been able to confirm that these students were registered in the county and eligible to vote, if the database had been running. Carnahan probably lost votes because the database was down. On the other hand, as this story suggests, it is highly unlikely that any ineligible voter was allowed to cast a regular ballot because the database was down.

  4. With Ed Martin losing his mind like Glenn Beck being trapped inside Mokabees overnight, it should be important to remember that we had a Census this year, and that the lines for congressional districts have yet to be redrawn.

    Ask KTRS's John Brown speculated, Missouri might lose a congressional seat and that he predicts that District 3 will be it. If so, District 5 might absorb the parts of District 3 that include Jefferson and Ste. Genevieve Counties. (Probably not Jefferson County but definitely St. Genevieve County.) The part of District 3 that is in St. Louis City and County will be merged with District 1 in North St. Louis City and County. With any luck, District 2 will shrink in size, but not in population. Since St. Charles County's population has grown significantly in the past decade, while the population in St. Louis City has gone down. To compensate, the part of District 2 that is in St. Louis County will also be added to District 1.
    Still, when all is said and done, Ed Martin will STILL not be a representative in the House of Representatives. (PWN3D!) It will be a toss up between Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan.

    Also, wasn't Melanie Shouse from District 24? How well was voter turnout in Overland and St. Ann? Was it as active as it was in 2008?

    Some corporations such as Walmart and McDonnalds had encouraged their employees to vote Republican.

    The fact that Lucas Oil Company had interest in killing Prop B for fear that it would affect their livestock interests at their Lucas Cattle subsidiary.

    The 2010 Election will be known as "The Election Corporations Bought." They'll deny it all they want, but the evidence will prove otherwise. And if there is one thing corporations suck at, it is suppressing the evidence.

  5. So was the vote suppression at Washington U.just incompetence or was it a deliberate attempt to deny the students their rights?

  6. All polling places are staffed by an equal number of Republican and Democratic election judges. Neither party has the ability to do anything in the polling place on its own. Everything must be done by a bipartisan team.

  7. Charlie, that doesn't really address the issue, since the people at the polling place were told, by the Board of Elections, that they couldn't give out provisional ballots. So the question is not whether there was some partisan at the polling location, but rather whether the Board of Elections was giving out bad information. Oh, and why were the students purged from voter rolls when they shouldn't have been?