St. Louis County council members will vote Tuesday on whether to accept a $2 million grant to ensure every local election official has enough staffing, training and equipment to administer the November election.
The grant, funded by the Center for Tech and Civic Life, is one of several awarded to election boards in the area and throughout Missouri to help with extra costs the COVID-19 pandemic has created for the election.
Democratic Director of Elections Eric Fey said the St. Louis County Election Board discovered and applied for the grant in early September.
“The main things we plan to use it for is the additional overtime costs, the additional cost of temporary employees we have hired and to give some additional hazard pay to the poll workers,” he said. “We also have had some pretty significant increases in our mailing costs because of the increase in mail ballots because this election was budgeted for back in 2019 prior to COVID … and we have some relatively large costs that we did not budget for this year.”
Fey said if the county exceeds the election budget, the council would have to approve a supplemental appropriation. So he argues this $2,048,474 grant will help them avoid going to taxpayers for more money to run the election.
However, a few council members have expressed concerns about accepting the grant money due to the Center for Tech and Civic Life showing signs of left-leaning political views.
“I don’t see any evidence of that,” Fey said, “We've dealt with CTCL a number of times in the past in St. Louis County — a lot of Missouri counties have, and the information and services that they have provided to us and other Missouri counties seemed to be pretty nonpartisan.”
He noted the center typically helps with the nuts and bolts of assisting an election administrator — setting up election websites, social media accounts and other similar services.
The center’s website states it harnesses “the promise of technology to modernize the American voting experience” in an effort to develop such goals as high-performing election offices, increased public confidence and trust, and better informed voters.
St. Louis City, St. Charles and the Missouri Secretary of State have accepted similar grants from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, according to Fey.
Fey says that while they may not need to go to the council for an additional $2 million if they don’t accept the grant, there is potential the St. Louis County Election Board will need to ask for more money, possibly about a half million dollars. He also noted the grant would allow the county to recoup election costs from as far back June, meaning money would essentially be returned to the county’s general revenue.
In an email to council members earlier this month, Fey wrote Chairwoman Lisa Clancy indicated a willingness to suspend the rules and expedite the legislation process of accepting the grant if the council is unanimously in favor of doing so.
Clancy was not immediately available for comment.