Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Absentee Ballot Applications and Their Envelopes Are Public Record, St. Louis Judge Rules

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Absentee Ballot Applications and Their Envelopes Are Public Record, St. Louis Judge Rules

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * The St. Louis Election Board violated the law when it refused to provide copies of absentee ballot applications and ballot envelopes, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Dave Roland, an attorney for state representative candidate Bruce Franks, who lost in the Aug. 2 Democratic primary to incumbent Penny Hubbard, sued for the records. Roland claims a large number of improperly cast absentee ballots tilted the election in Hubbard's favor.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Julian L. Bush said there is nothing in state law that addresses keeping absentee ballot applications "confidential."

As for the envelopes that absentee ballots are put into after they are filled out, Bush said state statutes offer no provision to keep those from public view.

Bush homed in on a phrase in a state statute cited by the Election Board that calls the envelopes "processed ballot materials in write-in form." Bush says that phrase "is awkward at best and gobbledygook at worse, and it is certainly not self-evident that absentee ballot envelopes are such things."

As a result, Bush said, "it is declared that defendants violated the law when they failed to furnish Mr. Roland with the copies of the ballot applications and ballot envelopes that he had requested."

Roland asserted that the release of the information will help strengthen his case of vote fraud. He has filed an official challenge to the results, which show Franks lost by 90 votes. On election night, Franks won nearly 53 percent of the votes. But when the absentee ballots were added to the total 78.5 percent of those votes were cast for Hubbard she pulled ahead.

Bush said on Monday that he will make no decision on Roland's request for a new trial until the election results are made official by the Secretary of State's office.

At a hearing Monday, attorneys for Hubbard asked Bush to dismiss Roland's challenge, arguing that he filed it prematurely, basing it on the results of the city Election Board. Since it is a race for a state office, the official results must come from the secretary of state, Hubbard's attorneys argued. …

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