Boone County voting observed

Officials from Canada and South Africa watched the process.
Wednesday, November 3, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:21 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

David MacDonald was surprised by how smoothly the election process ran its course at the Boone County polling places he visited Tuesday.

MacDonald, a Canadian election expert, and Norman Du Plessis of South Africa came to Columbia as international election observers representing Global Exchange, a human rights organization based in San Francisco. The organization also observed polling places in St. Louis, Ohio and Florida.

It was the first time MacDonald, a former Canadian minister of communication, has observed elections in the United States. At a Monday press conference, he said Canadian voters only cast ballots for one office every election. He said he expected U.S. polls to be backed up because of the “complicated” ballot, which featured candidates for national, state and local offices.

Boone County proved to be a nice surprise with the six polls the observers visited Tuesday morning running with few hitches.

“Because the ballot is much more complicated and because registration is much more exact, I’m impressed by how expeditiously it has gone,” MacDonald said.

Du Plessis, who supervised elections in Mexico, Zimbabwe and Malawi, said he saw some voters not on the lists at the polls they reported to. They were quickly redirected by election judges, whom Du Plessis credited with making things run smoothly.

“The impression that I got from poll workers is that we’re talking about a fairly high turnout, and it seems like they can handle that,” he said.

The two observers visited 12 polling places across the county until they closed at 7 p.m. After that, they watched as results were tabulated in the county clerk’s office. Project manager Carleen Pickard said the group visited diverse polling locations from MU to rural Boone County to understand Election Day operation.

Tuesday’s observation was the second phase of Global Exchange’s Fair Elections Project. A group of 20 international election observers visited five states in September, including Missouri.

Last month, the organization released a report that made suggestions about how to improve voter confidence.

The 48-page report made suggestions on recruiting poll workers, controlling campaign finances and having election judges explain provisional ballots to voters.

The report also highlighted reasons for choosing Boone County as an observation site on Election Day. County Clerk Wendy Noren “impressed the delegation with her knowledge of local and international practice and with her innovative solutions to improve registration and voting,” the report said.

MacDonald was interested in witnessing how provisional ballots would be handed out and how judges would explain that the vote might not be counted. He did not see any cases of that Tuesday morning.

The group should issue a report of its observations next week.

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