Saturday, April 21, 2007

Improprieties Cast Shadow Over Ward 9 City Elections Similar Situation In Hayti, Mo & Judge Orders New Election

By Tony Brockmeyer

In the April 3 city council election in Ward 9 it was discovered that some voters who lived in Ward 10 were given ballots to vote in the Ward 9 election. Incumbent Councilman Joe Koester was facing a challenge from Ron Stivison. Koester lost by only six votes 406 to 400.

On April 5, the St. Charles County Counselor’s office notified all parties involved that Director of Elections Rich Chrismer had found errors in Precinct 32’s conduct of the election for Ward 9 and believed a new special election may be necessary.

Also on April 5th the County Counselor’s office filed a petition in St. Charles County Circuit Court wherein it stated, “Wherefore, Plaintiff Rich Chrismer, Director of Elections for St. Charles County, pursuant to Section 115.600 of Missouri’s Comprehensive Election Act of 1977, requests that this Court enter an order and judgment invalidating the April 3, 2006 election for City Council member for Ward 9 in the City of St. Charles, and ordering a new election for that office.”
Later that evening it was reported that Chrismer had changed his mind and did not believe a new election was needed. Our sources at the County government building told us that a great deal of pressure was placed on Chrismer not to ask for a new election.

According to the petition, voters casting ballots in the election for Ward 9 were to cast yellow ballots, while voters casting ballots in the election for Ward 10 were to cast cherry ballots. However, until notified of their error by a DRE technician-election judge, election judges at precinct 32 issued all voters, whether voting in the Ward 9 or Ward 10 election, only yellow ballots. As many as seventeen votes may have been cast mistakenly in the election contest for Council Member for Ward 9.

The matter was set for hearing on Friday, April 20th. First assigned to Judge Lucy Rauch who recused herself. Then to Judge Ted House who recused himself, then to Judge Nancy Schneider who recused herself and now a request has been sent to the Missouri Supreme Court for judicial assignment.

A story in the Democrat Argus newspaper April 12, 2007 edition by Karol Wilcox reported that in the city of Hayti, election night totals showed mayoral challenger Bobby Watkins ahead of incumbent Richard Ashbaugh by 10 votes but allegations surfaced that some of the votes cast were from voters outside of the city limits. The voters were supposed to be given county only ballots but in error were given Hayti city ballots.

Pemiscot County Circuit Judge Fred Copeland has ordered a new election for Mayor of Hayti be held on Tuesday, April 24. According to the Democrat Argus article, Judge Copeland referred to Missouri Statue which he says left him with no discretion in the matter and that a new election must be held. Until the new election is held the Hayti elections were not certified and the incumbent Mayor will preside as mayor until the outcome of the new election. According to state statutes, Ashbaugh remains mayor until a new mayor is elected and certified.

Joe Koester told the First Capitol News. “I believe it is only fair that a new election be held and I am hoping the courts agree.”