Tuesday, August 16, 2016

FBI, Secretary of State Asking Questions About St. Louis Statehouse Race

Posted By on Tue, Aug 16, 2016 at 6:00 AM

Bruce Franks Jr. challenged State Rep. Penny Hubbard in the Democratic primary August 2. - PHOTO BY STEVE TRUESDELL
  • PHOTO BY STEVE TRUESDELL
  • Bruce Franks Jr. challenged State Rep. Penny Hubbard in the Democratic primary August 2.

Two weeks ago, State Rep. Penny Hubbard (D-St. Louis) held off a primary challenge from activist Bruce Franks, beating him in the 78th Missouri House district by just 84 votes in unofficial election night totals. But the race isn't over yet.

The Missouri Secretary of State's Office confirmed that they are reviewing two formal complaints related to the race. And the FBI has also reached out to several people alleging misconduct in the election, Franks says.

Franks says he personally has heard from several whistleblowers, as well as voters alleging irregularities. He's shared that info with the authorities.

"This is voter suppression," he says. "Period."

Even before the election, Franks and his attorney, David Roland — in conjunction with Rasheen Aldridge and Megan Betts, who ran for Democratic committee seats against Hubbard and her husband — had asked the St. Louis City Board of Elections to look into the extraordinarily high number of absentee ballots generated in past elections involving the Hubbards. Not only were those ballots being cast in much higher percentages than anywhere else in the city, but they were breaking for the Hubbards by very large percentages.

And sure enough, the high percentage of absentees continued on election night August 2. Penny Hubbard won 78.4 percent of absentee ballots in the race — with her absentee victory overcoming what would have otherwise been a loss at the polls.

When Roland raised the issue before the election, the Board of Elections declined to look into the matter, saying that statistical patterns were no evidence of wrongdoing. But they also blocked Roland from accessing more information — refusing to allow him to see the actual applications for absentee ballots, which contain information identifying the person who helped each voter complete his or her ballot. He's filed a lawsuit seeking those materials.

It will almost certainly not be the only one. By examining the limited information they've been given by the board of elections to date, Roland and Franks say they've identified well over 84 absentee ballot applications that should not have qualified for ballots. Once the election is certified by the Board of Elections, they intend to file an election challenge.

Hubbard did not respond to a message seeking comment yesterday. In a previous statement to the RFT, she emphatically denied any misconduct and called the allegations "slanderous."

But Franks says he raised the issue to let the Hubbards know what he knew. "It's not like I walked in saying, 'Hey, I want people to get in trouble or to go to jail,'" he says. "I said, 'Everybody's told me about your absentee game. Let's run a fair race and see how it goes.'" Only now, he says, has the ante been upped. 

"I'm not budging, and you can't intimidate me," he says of the Hubbards. "I come from the same streets you come from. You've got a big family? I've got 2,106 more family members as of August 2" — referencing the total number of people who voted for him. "So I've got a big family too."

The Secretary of State's office has reached out to the St. Louis Board of Elections as part of its review, says spokeswoman Stephanie Fleming. The office "will release a report of our findings when we complete this review," she says.

Once the August 2 election is certified locally — which should happen today — Roland said his clients would have five days to file an election challenge in St. Louis City Circuit Court. After that, the Board of Elections would have four days to respond to that, with a hearing likely taking place next week.

In addition to Franks' razor-thin election night loss to Penny Hubbard, progressives Megan Betts and Rasheen Aldridge lost to Penny Hubbard and Rodney Hubbard by just 178 and 52 votes, respectively. 

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com



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