Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Working for Free and Fair Elections

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Working for Free and Fair Elections

Article excerpt

IT'S BEEN ONLY eight months since Chris Lee took over the St. Louis Election Board as chairman.

But it's probably been the busiest eight months in Lee's career.

Unlike some election chairmen, Lee has neither run for public office before nor has he electoral ambitions. Lee, an area manager for community relations with Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., has a reputation for honesty, one he's enhanced during his brief tenure with the Election Board.

Lee is low-key, and some probably thought he would be a pushover. Instead, he's been anything but. Already, he and his board have been forced to deal with politicians and others who have tried to pressure the board to make certain decisions. He hasn't budged.

"We've got a job to do, and we're going to do it right," he said.

That's included overseeing the examination of some 16,000 post cards from people using the new post card voter registration system. In the past, the dead have often voted in St. Louis elections. But Lee, the board and election employees found that some 2,000 dead people were also registering to vote.

In fairness, all 2,000 people weren't actually dead. Some had false Social Security numbers. Others were too young ("can you believe age 10?") to vote. Those 2,000 were thrown off the city's voter rolls.

Now the board is canvassing homes, something that hasn't been done in St. Louis for at least 20 years. St. Louisans are getting cards in the mail that must be returned if voters want to stay on the rolls. Those who do not return the cards may get dropped the list of registered voters.

St. Louisans are responding to the canvass, Lee said. Of the 197,000 cards mailed the day before Thanksgiving, about 70,000 had been returned as of last week.

The board also has had to deal with the failed efforts to recall Alderman Sharon Tyus. The petitioners - who wanted Tyus removed from office - were about 100 signatures short. And Tyus has since alleged fraud in the collection of those signatures. The board is looking into the allegations, and plans to send its findings to the St. Louis circuit attorney's office.

The board also is looking for ways to speed counting of ballots, something candidates and news media should love. …

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