UPDATED at 4:30 p.m. with details on poll workers leaving a Berkeley voting spot for lunch, and voters being turned away.
Voting has been brisk throughout the region, with about 35 percent of those registered to cast ballots doing so in St. Louis County and city.
But at least a few voters in Berkeley were turned away when they showed up to cast ballots at Holman Elementary. Why? The three Republican poll workers had left the building.
"One Republican poll worker had a family emergency and left," said Eric Fey, St. Louis County's Democratic director of elections. The other two left for lunch, apparently got lost and didn't come back, he said.
"It was just like a comedy of errors," Fey said. It is unclear how many people were turned away during the 45 minutes it took to get more Republican poll workers to the school, which also had three Democratic poll workers on site.
Holman is the polling place for two precincts, with a combined 988 registered voters.
Fey said his office found out about the sudden absence of Republican poll workers from the Democrats, who shut down voting — something Fey says they should not have done.
"I would have preferred for them to keep going," he said.
There were other problems as well.
Fey said some poll workers were misunderstanding tickets that come out of an electronic sign-in system and were mistakenly giving voters nonpartisan ballots. Those nonpartisan ballots show only the issues, such as Proposition A, and do not include party primary races for county executive or county prosecutor, for example.
Fey said he learned about the problem when some voters and poll workers called to report it. He said election officials sent out text reminders to poll workers reminding them how the system was supposed to work.
If a voter is handed a nonpartisan ballot by mistake, he or she needs to return it to the poll worker and ask for either a Democratic or Republican ballot, Fey said. "I'm sure some did not do that," he said. "Once they cast their ballot, they can't come back and vote again."
Fey said he didn't know how many voters might have cast their ballots without getting to vote in the races they wanted.
"Throughout the whole county, I've heard of a few polling places (where this happened), maybe a dozen voters in the entire county," he said.
Polling places that had this problem included Jennings City Hall, Maryland Heights Community Center and Mark Twain Student Support Center in Florissant.
Rick Stream, Republican director of elections for St. Louis County, said he doesn't know how many people cast the wrong ballot but also estimated about a dozen based on the complaints he'd heard.
Stream said it's ultimately the voter's job to make sure the ballot is what he or she wants. "There's nothing we can do" once a ballot is cast, he said.
A Facebook page called Friends of Wesley Bell called the issue "voter manipulation." It warned in all caps, for voters to WATCH OUT and reminded them to refuse a ballot that isn't the party they want.
In St. Louis city, a touch screen machine at Mann Elementary School, in the 15th Ward, appeared to malfunction for at least one voter who was trying to cast a vote for Dana Kelly-Franks in the license collector race. Instead, the machine showed on screen that the vote went to her opponent, incumbent Mavis Thompson.
"If the machine does that, where the voter appears to vote for Candidate One and it goes to another candidate, we immediately shut down the machine and issue another ballot, and the voter can vote on another touch screen or get a paper ballot," said Gary Stoff, Republican director for the St. Louis Board of Elections. The problem was brought to the Election Board's attention around 9 a.m. and the machine was replaced, Stoff said. There have been no other voting problems brought to his office's attention, either at Mann School, 4047 Juniata Street, or any other voting places in the city, he added.
He reminded voters that if they vote by touch screen, they have two chances to check the ballot. Before the ballot is recorded on the machine, a summary screen pops up. If the voter is fine with the results, he or she can hit "Print Ballot." Then a lid on a canister to the right of the ballot can be lifted, showing the printed results on a roll of paper that looks like a supermarket receipt roll. If at either point, the votes recorded are different than what the voter intended, there is a "Back" button on the screen to make changes. If the results square with what the voter intended, the voter shuts the canister and hits "Cast Ballot." This records the vote and pops out the voter access card to return to a poll worker. The printed results scroll up in the canister so the votes cast cannot be seen by the next machine user.
Stoff and Fey both said a 35 percent turnout was forecast in the city and county today, and both jurisdictions expected to hit that mark based on feedback from poll workers.
"Prop A seems to be attracting a lot of attention," Stoff said.
Rain did not seem to be much of a factor. Showers rolled through the area early Tuesday morning, but rain did not seem to be much of a factor.
People carrying signs for campaign issues and people handing out pamphlets supporting candidates are supposed to stay 100 feet from a polling place, but at a Florissant polling place, a downpour pushed two of them under a canopy right at the door. No one complained though. Voters were busy rushing to their cars to keep dry.
Highlights of St. Louis-area ballots include Proposition A, which asks whether state voters want to approve a law that makes Missouri a “right to work” state. The measure would bar employers from requiring workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
Republicans will be choosing a candidate who will try to unseat Democratic Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway in November. Democrats in St. Louis County will be choosing a candidate for St. Louis County executive, as incumbent Steve Stenger is being challenged by businessman Mark Mantovani.
Voters began trickling in during the first hour that polls were open at the Overland Community Center. Jennifer Heinemann of Overland explained that she felt she had to cast a ballot because her husband is a union worker and her family’s income would take a hit if Proposition A were to pass.
“The good of unions definitely outweighs the bad,” she said.
The county executive primary race didn’t excite her though. “Kinda like the presidential election. Both pretty crappy,” she said.
Joe Ross of Florissant said his opposition to the right-to-work issue brought him to the polls at St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Florissant.
“I don’t feel you should work alongside me and not pay the same dues I pay,” said Ross, a former union worker who spent 30 years with Pevely dairy. “If it passes, wages will go even lower in Missouri.”
He said the only other ballot issue that drew him to the polls was the race for prosecuting attorney. Longtime prosecutor Robert McCulloch is facing a challenge from Ferguson councilman Wesley Bell in the Democratic primary.
The primary is McCulloch’s first contested race since protesters criticized his office for its handling of the grand jury inquiry into the killing of Michael Brown, 18, by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9, 2014.
“I’m not a strong advocate of McCulloch," Ross said. "He’s a little racist, just his demeanor is not what it should be. But some things he does well, and I voted for him.”
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Highlights of St. Louis-area ballots:
• Proposition A asks whether state voters want to approve a law that makes Missouri a “right to work” state. The measure would bar employers from requiring workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
• Four Republicans are vying to take on Democratic Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway in November. The candidates are state Rep. Paul Curtman of Washington, attorney Saundra McDowell of Jefferson City, Ballwin Alderman Kevin Roach and attorney David Wasinger of Huntleigh.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY EXECUTIVE
• In the Democratic primary for St. Louis County executive, incumbent Steve Stenger is being challenged by businessman Mark Mantovani.
AREA CONGRESSIONAL SEATS
• Voters will select party nominees for area congressional seats, including the 1st District seat held by Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay of St. Louis and the 2nd District seat held by Republican Rep. Ann Wagner of Ballwin.
• Voters also will see a host of primary races for seats in the Missouri Legislature within both major parties.
Kim Bell and Doug Moore of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.