August 29, 2010
Pettis County Republican Party Chairwoman Carla Young has filed a formal complaint over three issues that arose during the Aug. 3 primary election.
Young spoke to The Democrat last week, expressing frustration with both Pettis County Clerk Pam Doane’s performance during the election and with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office over a lack of response to her complaint.
Young said she called the Secretary of State’s office on Aug. 5 or Aug. 6 to lodge a formal complaint after receiving calls from voters in Ward 2, Precinct 3, who were given the wrong ballot in a Republican Party committee person race between Fern Klement and Judy Petrie. She also raised the issue of voters who complained that the polling place at Amigos de Cristo had no Republican paper ballots on hand when the polling place opened on election day.
Doane admitted to both issues during an interview with The Democrat on Thursday, but said her office had worked quickly to resolve the issues once they were notified. She said she had been in contact with Young on election day and was aware of the issues raised.
However, Doane told The Democrat during a post-election story on Aug. 4 that “I think (the election) went well, given the turnout. We had a couple issues with voting machines, but we were able to switch out the machines, and everyone was still able to vote.”
When asked by The Democrat why she did not raise Young’s issues, Doane said, “I felt like we had got them taken care of, so it wasn’t an issue.”
She said voters in precincts 2 and 3 in Ward 2 vote at the same polling place — Washington Elementary School — and poll workers there failed to hand out the right ballot.
Petrie won the committee position with 28 votes to Klement’s 16, but Doane admitted at least 21 voters had cast ballots by the time she resolved the issue, sometime midmorning on election day.
Doane said poll workers at Amigos de Cristo called a little after 6 a.m. on election day to say they had no paper Republican ballots. She said ballots were on hand there within 10 or 15 minutes, and the polling place had a touch-screen voting machine on site so anyone who wanted to vote still had the means to do so.
Young said she spoke with numerous people in the Secretary of State’s office before finding someone who could take her complaint, but could not remember the name of the person who took her information.
She said the person told her the issue in the committee race would have to be resolved by the courts, but promised Young the office would contact Doane to discuss the matter and would get back to her.
Laura Egerdal, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office, said Friday that she had spoken to all but two employees in the office and could find no record of Young’s complaint.
Egerdal said the office takes all complaints seriously, and “it would be unusual for us not to turn around and call the county clerk.”
She said though the Secretary of State’s office certifies elections, questions as to recounts or voting irregularities are covered by state statute and must be resolved by the courts.
Egerdal said it also would be unusual for someone in the office to take an election complaint over the phone, as the office typically requests such material in writing.
Young was contacted Friday afternoon by Deputy Secretary of State for Elections Waylene Hiles and was told that Doane had admitted to election day issues. Young said Hiles planned to contact her Monday to discuss what happened to her original complaint.
Young said she added a third issue to her complaint on Friday concerning whether the proper ballot was given to all eligible voters in the Sweet Springs fire district issue that appeared on the Aug. 3 ballot for voters in Blackwater Township in Pettis County.
Doane said an issue had been raised about who was eligible to vote on the fire district question, but believes all issues were resolved. She said her office used an eligibility list generated by the Pettis County Assessor’s office to determine who was eligible to vote on the ballot question.
Frank Higgins, a La Monte resident who works in the Pettis County Assessor’s office, said he did not know if his office had originated the eligibility list but “when I signed the roll, I saw a number of names of people I know should have been able to vote who were not highlighted.”
Young said she has spoken with Petrie and Klement, and neither party wants to challenge the results of the election because of the cost of staging a possible special election.
Young and Doane both agreed that proponents of the fire district question were aware of possible irregularities but chose not to pursue the matter because the measure passed.
Voters approved the taxing district by a margin of 68 percent to 32 percent, with 481 voting in favor of passage and 211 voting against.
Doane said poll workers are trained, but she would stress the importance of making sure polling places with multiple precincts knew to make sure to provide the correct ballot in training leading to the November general election.
Young said “it is unacceptable for them to say I didn’t file a complaint. I want to make sure the Secretary of State isn’t trying to sweep this under the rug.”
“This is the first time I have ever filed a complaint, and there is no way I would have known that this kind of thing would have to go through the courts until their office told me. These are three big issues and it infringes on a basic right when elections aren’t handled properly,” Young said.
Young said she was able to find a workable resolution to the committee race, but noted the potentially high cost of having to restage the election if either candidate sought a challenge to the results.
“My issue isn’t with poll workers making a mistake. My issue is with Pam. She has been in office too long to let something like this go on,” Young said. “This isn’t about politics. I don’t care what party you are from, your vote should count and poll workers should have the training and resources they need to make sure elections are fair. That is Pam’s job.”