JEFFERSON CITY — A candidate who narrowly lost a Democratic primary for a Missouri House seat plans to formally contest the election with the chamber by raising allegations of voter fraud, his campaign manager said Monday.
Will Royster, of Kansas City, lost the August primary for the 40th District by a single vote to John Rizzo, who then won the general election against a Libertarian. An appeals court upheld Rizzo's victory.
But campaign manager Chris Moreno told The Associated Press that Royster plans to file a petition contesting the election this week with the House.
The House is not currently in session, so any challenge to Rizzo's victory likely would have to occur after he is sworn into office along with other newly elected legislators on Jan. 5, said Alex Curchin, the House general counsel.
Incoming Republican House Speaker Steven Tilley has said he would look into the case. But Tilley does not have authority to bar Rizzo from serving in the Legislature. That would require a vote of the full House.
It's unclear whether such an action would require a simple majority — as is the case for actions taken in contested elections — or a two-thirds majority needed under the Missouri Constitution to expel a member from the chamber.
Royster claims that several of Rizzo's relatives and supporters who lived outside the district voted illegally. He also alleges that a Rizzo supporter instructed a group of Somalis who couldn't speak English how to vote and some ballots were not signed by election officials, as required by law.
"There are so many irregularities, it's astonishing," Royster told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "This is one of the most blatant cases of voter fraud I've ever heard of."
Rizzo said Royster's complaints are "sour grapes."
"This election has been scrutinized more than any election in Missouri history, and it has stood the test every time," Rizzo said.
Tilley said the "issue could be a very thorny and polarizing one," but he has to take the complaint seriously to "uphold the sanctity of the voting process."
The close election could generate support for a proposal that Republicans have been pushing unsuccessfully for several years to require people to show government-issued photo identification when voting. Supporters argued that the measure is needed to prevent fraud.
Tilley said Republicans expect to push a similar bill this year. Although he said he hesitates to politicize the allegations in the Kansas City race, he believes the dispute could give pause to those who don't believe voter fraud exists.