The directors of St. Louis County Board of Elections on Wednesday unveiled a new app voters can use while casting their ballot during the November 3 election.
Democratic Director of Elections Eric Fey and Republican Director of Elections Rick Stream held a press conference to unveil the app and update the public on election operations.
The app allows voters to see how many people are in line at any polling place in the county in almost real-time, with county employees updating the website frequently.
“It gives the voters a close-to-exact number of how many people are standing in line at the time,” Fey said. “So, we are trying to give people some kind of idea of how many people are in line, and we hope to roll this through all the way to election day.”
Thanks to updated election equipment, St. Louis County voters are not confined to one polling place and are able to vote at any of the 231 polling locations open for the election.
And while the county had over 400 polling places for the last presidential election, the directors said the new technology, coupled with changing voter methods, means that cutting locations in half should not create any logistical problems.
Stream cited several reasons for the reduced number of polling places, which are all tied into the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, he noted that private entities like churches and business are no longer volunteering their space for polling due to safety concerns. Second, the county lost a large portion of its poll workers also due to concerns of safety. Stream noted that 70% of poll workers are over the age of 60 and 35% of those people are over the age of 70.
And third, Fey added, the approximately 20% increase in absentee ballots reduces the need for physical polling places.
“So, while we may have a higher turnout this year than we did in 2016, many fewer voters will be voting at a polling place on election day than they did in 2016.” Fey said. “And voters have more flexibility now than they did 2016. You can vote at any polling place in St. Louis County.”
The announcement came the day after St. Louis County Council voted of 4-3 to accept a $2 million grant Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), an organization doling out election grants across the country which are funded by a $250 million donation from Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
Stream said they expect to receive the $2,048,474 grant almost immediately and put it to use on unforeseen election expenditures, like the increase in mail-in ballot postage as well as salaries for poll workers and absentee ballot handlers.
“There’s just a tremendous number of additional expenditures over and above what we had budgeted for last year before COVID,” Stream said. “So, we will be able to use the money on these additional expenditures.”
October 21 was the deadline for both St. Louis County and city residents to request an absentee ballot. Both directors urged people to mail in those ballots as soon as they receive them.
Stream also said that even if a person requests a mail-in or absentee ballot, they can always vote in person. He emphasized a person cannot vote twice, even if they request a mail-in ballot and then decide to vote in person.
“If you request an absentee or mail-in ballot and it never gets there for some reason … you always have another opportunity to vote,” he said. “We’ve had a massive shift in the method of voting in Missouri and St. Louis County so a lot of people are voting by mail and they’ve never done that before. So, they are uncertain about it and they have questions. We will tell you if something went wrong with your ballot and give you a chance to fix it.”
Access the voting app at https://tinyurl.com/STL-vote-app.