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St. Louis County Activity on Election Reform

Board of Election Commissioners of St. Louis County, Missouri

According to the Missouri Secretary of State web site, "Voter registration and the conduct of elections are the responsibilities of boards of election commissioners in the counties of Clay, Jackson, Platte and St. Louis and in the cities of Kansas City and St. Louis. The county clerk serves as the election authority in all other counties of the state." The St. Louis County election board is by far the largest, with about 726,325 registered voters in 2000.

St. Louis County uses punch cards. They tried optical scan, but found that it took 9 hours to scan 5000 absentee ballots, which would have only taken about half an hour for punch cards. The board is of the opinion that while optical scan works well in smaller jurisdictions, it would not work for St. Louis County because of the number of ballots that have to be counted. The board has also expressed concern that a uniform voting system would be adopted that would not be in their best interests; they want to be able to chose what works best for their voters.

Several years ago, the board looked at the error-detection equipment that is currently being installed in Chicago, which provides voters an opportunity to correct their ballots and leave with the confidence that their vote will be counted. However the county balked at the $5 million price tag.

Unfortunately, figures are the number of overvotes and undervotes are not kept, or are not made public. I also learned that there are no standards for manual recounts. A manual recount would have to be court-ordered, in which case the court would have to supply the recount criteria. This has not happened in many years, if ever.

The state legislature writes election laws, not the election boards. However the board does lobby for and against laws that they feel would affect them. For example, the board takes a strong position against all early voting bills on the grounds that it will make their jobs more difficult but will not increase voter turnout.

The board meets monthly, usually the third tuesday of the month at 2 pm, and it is officially open to the public although I have been their only visitor since the I started going in December. The meetings are brief but interesting and educational.

In my opinion, election reform will need to be driven by the state and federal governments. From what I have seen and read so far, I think it's safe to say that in general, local election boards do not have the staff, the budget or the authority to enact massive reforms.

Disclaimer: This should go without saying, but: The opinions expressed on this page are those of the author and not of the election board. The information on this page is based on what I have heard in the public meetings, and on answers to my questions which certain board members have been kind enough to answer. I am solely responsible for any inaccuracies that may appear on this page. As always, I welcome feedback; For contact info please see About ERIN.