Friday, July 13, 2018

Voter Registration Drives Leave St. Louis Election Officials Scrambling

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 6:35 AM

click to enlarge FLICKR/KEVIN SCHRAER
The August 7 election in Missouri is a mid-term primary, but St. Louis officials say they're seeing a level of new voter registrations more commonly associated with higher-profile elections — like, say, presidential ones.

And that means more work for everybody.

"The last several days have been very busy with groups dropping off hundreds of voter registration applications," says Gary Stoff, the Republican elections director for the city of St. Louis.

Agrees Eric Fey, the Democratic elections director for St. Louis County, "We are swamped with voter registrations right now."

There are various theories as to why. The August ballot features a number of high-profile intra-party races (Bush v. Clay! Petersen v. Hawley!). Love him or hate him, President Trump has also charged up the electorate, even as, Stoff and Fey say, groups like Missouri Black Voters have launched significant voter drives.

And those drives can lead to some complications. Unlike a citizen who is registering at, say, a DMV or the elections board itself, people being approached by registration canvassers aren't always mindful as they're filling out their form, Fey notes ... and, in some cases, not even sure they should trust a stranger with the last four digits of their social security number or driver's license number. Yet one or the other (or a date of birth) is essential for a finished form.

At this point, Fey says, the county board of elections is dealing with "dozens" of registrations that are unverified.

"It is a larger number than normal of incomplete registrations," he says.

But while Wednesday was the deadline for forms to be turned in, that doesn't mean the elections authorities need completed forms in hand right now. Both Stoff and Fey say they have seven days to reach out to prospective voters in hopes of getting everything in order. After that, the goal is to hear back from the person in question in time to get them on the verified list sent out to pollworkers. "We think we'll be in good shape in that regard," Stoff says.

And hopefully, all those registrations pouring in will result in bodies that show up to the polling station in August. Otherwise, a bunch of groups just spent a lot of money for nothing. Registering is one thing; voting is what counts.

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


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