Something Stinks in St. Louis

By Berlau, John | Insight on the News, July 16, 2001 | Go to article overview

Something Stinks in St. Louis


Berlau, John, Insight on the News


Many questions remain unanswered concerning charges of voter fraud and manipulation by Democrats in St. Louis during the extremely close 2000 elections in Missouri.

Sometimes one potential voter can make a difference. When Missourians were voting last Nov. 7 in tight races for president, U.S. senator and governor, claims that St. Louis resident Robert Odom was experiencing difficulty voting provided the basis for a state judge to keep the polls open late in the heavily Democratic city after they had closed everywhere else in the state.

"Robert D. Odom has not been able to vote and fears he will not be able to vote because of long lines at the polling places [and] machine breakdowns in St. Louis, Missouri, that have lasted for several hours," declared a petition for an emergency order to extend voting hours. It was filed at 3:20 that afternoon on behalf of Odom, the Missouri State Democratic Committee, the campaign of Democratic congressional candidate William Lacy Clay Jr. and the Gore/ Lieberman presidential campaign.

Seven months later, a Justice Department investigation is under way into what Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., has called "a major criminal enterprise designed to defraud voters" as part of an alleged conspiracy to manipulate the results of the election.

Both George W. Bush and Al Gore campaigned strongly in Missouri, a crucial state in any close presidential election. Both parties worked hard to mobilize their bases for the presidential race and other close elections there. By midafternoon of Election Day, however, exit polls indicated Bush was doing better than expected in the state, and he eventually beat Gore by more than 3 percentage points. But the Republicans down the ticket were in the fights of their lives. Sen. John Ashcroft, now U.S. attorney general, narrowly was defeated for a Senate seat. The governor of Missouri, Mel Carnahan, was killed three weeks before the election but his name remained on the ballot. Carnahan's lame-duck successor promised to appoint the late governor's wife, Jean, if the dead man were elected. In the end, the decedent was elected by 49,000 votes, or a 2 percent margin. In the race for governor, then-U.S. Rep. Jim Talent was defeated by Democratic state Treasurer Bob Holden by just 21,000 votes, or less than 1 percent. No one knows how much of a role fraud played in in these results, but recent figures from the Missouri secretary of state show that 56,000 St. Louis-area voters hold multiple voter registrations.

Many questions, including peculiar involvement by the national Gore campaign, are being explored. One of the questions that remains unanswered concerns the identity of the mysterious Mr. Odom. According to the various explanations he (1) never existed, (2) is dead, (3) never registered or (4) is a political operative for Clay who voted well before the filing of the petition to keep open the polls.

But one thing is clear: The information presented about Odom to the St. Louis judge who issued the order was false on its face. "It was the denial of Robert D. Odom's right to vote upon which the [judge's] action was premised" notes a memo prepared by a group of St. Louis lawyers and sent to the U.S. attorney's office by Sen. Bond.

By law in Missouri, any eligible voter in line at the polls at 7 p.m. must be allowed to vote no matter how much time it takes. But at 6:30 p.m., Judge Evelyn Baker ordered polls in heavily Democratic St. Louis to stay open for anyone who got in line by 10 p.m., three hours after polling places were required to close in the rest of the state. Bush/Cheney 2000 filed an emergency appeal, and a state court of appeals quashed Baker's order at 7:45 p.m.

The appeals court stated: "Extension of the hours of voting would only permit voting by persons not entitled to participate and would do nothing to remedy the alleged problems identified." But since Baker had not ordered that votes after 7 p. …

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