A St. Charles voter sued Rich Chrismer, the director of the St. Charles Election Authority, on Election Day after poll workers said she couldn’t vote without photo ID in the November 6 midterm election – and she won.
At around 7 p.m., Circuit Court Judge Matt Thornhill issued an emergency order in the voter Stacey Dukes’ lawsuit, stating that Chrismer had to comply with a state-wide court ruling that prevents election officials from requiring Missouri voters to show a photo ID to cast a ballot.
Volunteer lawyers with the national Election Protection initiative filed the lawsuit on Dukes’ behalf. Throughout the day, Election Protection lawyers received numerous complaints about poll workers requiring photo IDs from about 24 precincts in St. Charles County, said Denise Lieberman, the Missouri coordinator for the initiative. And they have evidence in these precincts that the poll workers’ conduct was in clear violation of the law, she said.
“The fact that these complaints were pervasive throughout St. Charles County suggests that this was not a mere mistake on behalf on one or two poll workers who may have been confused about the recent ruling,” Lieberman said. “Rather, this suggests a systemic and wholesale failure to comply with the law. I believe that’s why the court granted this order tonight.”
According to the lawsuit, Dukes attempted to vote at her designated polling location in St. Charles County and was unable to do so because she was asked to present a photo ID. Although she provided acceptable non-photo identification, the poll workers still refused to allow Dukes to vote.
Lieberman said that although the order came one minute before the polls closed, the order is important because it makes clear that election officials will be held accountable and responsible for conducting elections in compliance with the law.
She said Chrismer could also be held in contempt of the court order that was issued in early October by Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan. That order, in essence, threw out the photo ID requirement ‒ the core of the voter ID constitutional amendment that was enacted on June 1, 2017.
Earlier on Tuesday, The St. Louis American reported that poll workers at two locations in St. Charles County were telling voters that they disagreed with the October court decision and were requiring voters to provide a state-issued photo ID to obtain a ballot regardless, according to lawyers with the Election Protection initiative.
“Voters who are savvy are challenging the poll workers and at least two have reported that poll workers have said they don’t care about the law,” said attorney Jennifer Kovar, with Kovar law firm, LLC and a volunteer lawyer with the initiative.
Kovar called and emailed Chrismer. She also sent a “demand letter” that explained the reports. As of 4 p.m., Kovar had still not received a response.
The St. Louis American called Chrismer, and he did not respond to a request for comment on the Election Protection reports.
St. Peters resident Sue DuBois called the hotline at around 10 a.m. and said that the poll workers at St. Peters City Centre demanded to see her driver’s license, after she handed them the voter card she received in the mail.
“I said, ‘No, the law now states that this should suffice because I have my name and address on this card,’” DuBois told The American.
The two women poll workers reiterated that they needed to see her driver’s license, she said.
“I told them, ‘What you are doing is against the law,’” DuBois said. “And they said, ‘We don’t agree with the law because we’re afraid of voter fraud. We think that anybody could bring anything in here and not be who they are on paper.”
After going back and forth like this several times, DuBois finally decided to show her driver’s license and vote. After DuBois voted, she worked a three-hour shift as an Election Protection monitor outside that polling location. She said she has volunteered in some capacity to assist at the polls and campaigns for many years.
“I want to make sure that everyone gets to vote,” she said, “and I was quite upset that what they did to me was going to continue throughout the rest of the day.”
During her shift, a young man came out and reported to her that poll workers did not let him vote because he was labeled as “inactive,” since he hadn’t voted in the last two years. DuBois said the poll workers were able to find his voter registration, and he had a photo ID with the same address that was on his registration. They told him that they would have to call the election commission and the issue would likely take two hours to resolve, she said. The man said that about five other people had been told the same things while he was there. He was about to leave without voting because he had to work, she said.
DuBois advised him not to give up and to find the supervisor. He ended up going back in and casting a provisional ballot.
“I’ve never heard of a person not being able to vote because they were inactive,” said DuBois, who has been volunteering at polls for many years. “If you are registered to vote, you can vote.”
– Reported by Rebecca Rivas
County voters empower County Council to ‘rein in’ county executive
Four charter amendments designed by the St. Louis County Council to address its core complaints with County Executive Steve Stenger passed with resounding vote totals on November 6.
“Tonight marked another milestone in the County Council’s efforts to rein in an out-of-control county executive,” said County Council Chairman Sam Page.
Charter Amendment 1 was a direct challenge to the perception that the Stenger administration gave favorable treatment to Stenger's political campaign donors. It will limit campaign donations to county political candidates to only $2,600 per person and passed with 74 percent of the vote.
Charter Amendment 2 will amend the St. Louis County Charter to require a public vote before any county park land can be sold or leased. It was backed by parks advocates and environmental groups, who ran a positive parks-centered campaign, and passed with 78 percent of the vote.
Charter Amendment B, which will allow the County Council to control the budget during the budget year, is likely the most momentous change to everyday county government. Previously, the County Council would control the budget when it was passed, but then the county executive could move money within the budget during the budget year. It passed with 65 percent of the vote.
Finally, Charter Amendment C will ensure that a website publishes the county's financial documents. The straightforward proposal received wide-spread support and passed with 80 percent of the vote.
“The county executive spent a quarter-million dollars fighting important reforms of county government, but county voters spoke loud and clear: they want us to continue demanding ethics, accountability, and transparency,” Page said on election night.
“We made progress tonight. But our efforts to reform county government are only just beginning.”