St. Louis election board calls in feds to investigate fraud

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 | 3:00 p.m. CDT; updated 4:24 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 20, 2009

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Election Board has asked federal and city authorities to investigate 50 cases of alleged voter fraud from three elections.

City Elections Board Director Scott Leiendecker said Wednesday that the alleged fraud was not at levels great enough that it could have changed the outcome of an election. But, he added, municipal races in particular can be very close and dishonest voting has the potential to sway close races.

"We are very concerned by these findings," he said. "The board believes one dishonest vote cancels the vote of an honest voter."

Working on its reputation

The city has been working over several years to improve its reputation for voter registration problems, Election Day confusion and slow returns.

Leiendecker said his office has routinely looked for instances of voter fraud for at least the last four years. He showed photos at a news conference featuring vacant lots and crumbling, unoccupied houses that have been used recently as the addresses of registered voters.

He also said election boards in the region are doing a better job coordinating information between counties and across the state boundary with Illinois. It allows them to better spot people who are voting twice in the same election, he said.

What they found

The St. Louis elections office found 32 people who registered and voted using addresses that are actually vacant lots; 15 people who voted in two different jurisdictions in the same election; one person who knowingly cast a ballot where he does not live, one felon who voted though it was illegal, and one person who cast both an absentee ballot and an election day ballot.

Seven of the cases were from a February 2008 election, an additional 42 from the November's presidential election and one municipal case from April. The municipal matter was turned over to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, rather than to federal prosecutors.

No charges have been filed yet.

Starting with a tip

The U.S. attorney's office in St. Louis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Leiendecker said several cases began with a tip from a member of the public. He said election officials check records, then both a Democrat and a Republican go out to investigate and photograph vacant lots, once they realize someone is improperly registered to one of those addresses.

He said there is no way to know how much voter fraud isn't found or how St. Louis stacks up to other cities on the matter. He said he believes St. Louis' problem was similar to what other urban areas experience. The city has roughly 222,000 registered voters, or about 250,000 if inactive rolls are included.


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