Newspaper investigation reveals absentee voting problems

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(ST. LOUIS, AP) — St. Louis voters who claim to be the victims of absentee voting irregularities are raising questions about the conduct of campaign workers for a state representative who narrowly won her primary.
The allegations stem from Democratic state Rep. Penny Hubbard’s narrow 90-vote win against political newcomer Bruce Franks in the Aug. 2 primary, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ( ) reports.
Franks is suing to overturn the election. Although he won most of the votes cast on election day, Hubbard snared 78 percent of absentee votes to propel her to victory. The U.S. attorney’s office is among several agencies reviewing the results.
Reynal Caldwell Jr., 38, was among two voters who told the newspaper that people identifying themselves as Hubbard campaign workers filled out their ballots for them in violation of state law. Caldwell said he was approached twice and may have been asked to sign something during the first encounter. He said that the application for an absentee ballot that was submitted in his name contained some writing that wasn’t his.
A few days after that first visit, Caldwell said, four people came to his home and asked whether the absentee ballot had arrived. Caldwell said that after expressing indecision about how to vote, a woman said she would “put down the same votes as hers.” He said the campaign workers left with his signed return envelope and blank ballot. Records show his ballot was among those counted in the tight race.
The newspaper also found after interviewing dozens of people and reviewing thousands of documents that:
— There were at least 60 instances where two applications for an absentee ballot were submitted to the St. Louis Election Board on behalf of a single voter. Some voters contacted by the Post-Dispatch said they had not applied twice and had no idea why someone would have filled out a second application for them.
— More than a dozen voters said they never claimed to be incapacitated as their applications to vote absentee show. Of the six legal reasons a person can vote absentee, only one — incapacity — does not require a notarized affidavit.
— Two former Election Board employees say that in previous election campaigns, Hubbard’s husband routinely delivered stacks of absentee ballots to the Election Board offices, even though Missouri election law says only a second-degree relative can deliver ballots for another person.
Penny Hubbard’s lawyer denied any allegations of impropriety involving either Penny Hubbard or her husband. She said the campaign did not change or improperly handle voting records.
“There is absolutely no evidence Penny Hubbard or anyone associated with her forged documents,” said attorney Jane Dueker.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch,