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Carnahan report on '08 election: No fraud, a few fouls

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 1, 2009 - Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan issued today her official report of last November's general election in the state. The upshot: No reports of "impersonation fraud'' but several hundred reports of problems at the polls.

Carnahan noted that last fall's election had seen a record-setting turnout, and 340,000 newly registered voters.

The biggest problem appeared to be that some poll workers appeared to be unaware of when to allow voters to cast provisional ballots, because of confusion involving their status. Such ballots are counted only when it is determined that the voter was qualified to vote, and had been in the correct polling place.

Wrote Carnahan:

Unfortunately, a handful of incidents were reported in which poll workers were not aware of these procedures. Frustrated voters called to report they waited in line at multiple polling places, only to be turned away. A St. Louis County voter “waited in line for two hours” at her old polling location. After she signed the poll book, poll workers directed her to her new polling place. She was then informed she would not be able to vote because she “already signed the book.” Another voter, who moved after the registration deadline, was “told by St. Louis County that he needed to vote in St. Charles, and St. Charles told him that he needed to vote the “short” ballot in St. Louis County.”

Although the report focused on November, it did touch on last year's other statewide elections -- notably the primaries in February and August. Some voters complained about having to publicly declare to poll workers which party's ballot they wanted to receive. In primaries, Missouri voters can cast a ballot in only one party's primary.

Said the report:

In February, a voter in St. Louis City was “humiliated and upset” when he changed his mind and asked for a Green Party ballot and “the poll workers laughed at him.” During the August election, several voters called to report they felt uncomfortable publicly stating their party preference.

UPDATE: This afternoon, the Missouri Republican Party offered up its dissent. The party blasted Carnahan for failing to mention the voter-registration controversies surrounding ;the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which the GOP contended had sought to "submit thousands of fraudulent voter registrations to county election boards across this state."

The GOP continues:

"Carnahan’s report, which does not mention ACORN, also comes a week after a former organizer for ACORN pleaded guilty to federal charges for submitting fraudulent voter registrations in the St. Louis area — the latest in a long line of serious voter fraud allegations for the left-wing group."

Election authorities in Missouri's urban areas, including St. Louis, maintain that no bogus registrations ended up on the rolls, and were caught by election-board employees.

NEW UPDATE: Carnahan's staff says the report does indeed deal with faulty registrations, just that it doesn't mention ACORN by name. Rather, the report discusses problems with "third party groups,'' a spokeswoman said.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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