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Ashcroft to investigate closure of polling place in Aug. 7 election

Monticello Commons

Monticello Club House

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has opened an investigation into a polling place closure that may have changed the results of the Aug. 7 election.

Meanwhile, St. Charles County Election Authority officials waited to see if any candidate in the election requested a recount. None did. However, Republican candidate Bryan Cooper, of O’Fallon, filed a lawsuit on Aug. 22 asking St. Charles Circuit Judge Jon A. Cunningham to order a new election.

The doors to a St. Charles County polling place, located at 2 Dunmore Circle [the Monticello Clubhouse] in O’Fallon, remained locked for 90 minutes past opening time on Tuesday, Aug. 7, the day of the primary election.

“It is unacceptable that precinct voters were turned away, possibly changing the outcome of an election,” Ashcroft said in a news release. “If you are a registered voter who was disenfranchised due to the polling place being locked, please call the elections division at (800) 669-8683 and report it to us.”

State law provides the secretary of state the authority to investigate elections. On election day, the secretary of state’s office received comments through social media and telephone in regard to the locked polling place doors at the Monticello Clubhouse.

The office contacted the county election office, which confirmed the doors were locked and malfunctioning due to a lightning strike. Later, the secretary’s office was told that the building owner had changed the locks and the election judges did not have the correct key to enter the building. County Election Authority Director Rich Chrismer, named as a defendant in Cooper’s suit, confirmed the locked building account.

“Our [election] judges got there about 5:05, 5:10 a.m. or something like that and they were ready to unlock the building,” Chrismer said. “And the lock didn’t work.”

The county contracts with building owners to use buildings and has used the clubhouse for many years, Chrismer said. He noted that the lock had been changed. The property owner had the building open the Friday before the election to allow voting equipment to be delivered but didn’t tell county officials that the lock had changed.

The property owners were notified but didn’t get over to the building until 7:4o a.m. A trustee for the nearby subdivision told county officials that he had a key for the new lock and the building was open by 7:30 a.m., Chrismer said.

In meantime, county officials told voters they could wait until the building was open or go vote at the authority’s headquarters at 397 Turner Blvd just north of the Interstate 70-Hwy. 79 interchange, which is about 4.5 miles away. One voter did vote there, Chrismer said.

Unofficial vote tallies in the Republican and Democrat House District 102 primaries were within one-half of 1 percent [.05] – close enough for any of the four candidates to request a recount as provided by Section 115.601, RSMo. Out of a total of 7,699 votes cast, just four votes separated the Republicans and 15 votes separated the Democrats.

Chrismer said, other than the locked door, no abnormalities took place during the Aug. 7 election and it is unlikely that a new election would be approved.

Ashcroft in the release said his office plans to “talk to local officials, disenfranchised voters, the owners of the facility who leased the building to the county, and others,” Ashcroft said. “This cannot happen again. Voters deserve to be able to open the door when they show up to cast their ballot.”

 

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