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Uplands Park decides against disincorporation

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - A bid to disincorporate Uplands Park has failed. The north St. Louis County village will not become part of unincorporated St. Louis County.

For a few minutes on Tuesday, it appeared that Uplands Park was going to disincorporate. But that changed after St. Louis County updated its website.

Citing a dysfunctional local government, some residents of the roughly 445-person village had gathered enough signatures to place a disincorporation vote on Tuesday’s ballot. Had the ballot item received 60 percent or more of the vote, the tiny municipality would have become part of unincorporated St. Louis County.

At 8:09 p.m. on Tuesday, the St. Louis County Board of Elections’ website posted unofficial results stating that the initiative had passed with exactly 60 percent of the vote. The site indicated that 1 out of 1 precincts had been counted, which means that all votes have been tabulated.

That led some media outlets to report that the vote had succeeded. This reporter, for instance, Tweeted out a screenshot of the 8:09 p.m. results from the county website.

But about 10 minutes later, the county elections website updated again to show that the ballot initiative had only received about 51 percent of the vote.That meant that the effort had failed – and that Uplands Park remains a municipality.

Rita Days, the election board’s Democratic elections director, told the Beacon that a staffer published the 8:09 p.m. results “before we had a chance to review the results.”

“The normal protocol is we get that [information] from the tab room,” Days said. “I look at that. [Republican director] Gary Fuhr looks at that. And we say ‘OK, push it to the website.’ For some reason... I don’t know if it got past him, but it did get past me.”

Days said that the situation was evidence that “seconds matter” in reporting election results – especially in an age where social media tools like Twitter are prime conduits for information.

“It was very important to those people out there. When they look at 60-40 and they say, ‘Oh yeah, we’ve got it.’ And then in the next second or two – ‘no, you didn’t,’” Days said. “And so, that was unfortunate on our part. I take full responsibility for that. And what we have now is the 51 percent result – and no it did not make it.”

The Uplands Park vote is the second time in recent years that a municipality tried to disincorporate. In 2011, voters in St. George voted to dissolve the south St. Louis County town.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.