JEFFERSON CITY • Two recounts could be in store for a St. Charles County-based Missouri House district where both the Republican and Democratic primary winners won their races by razor-thin margins.
Republican Ron Hicks beat his opponent, Bryan Cooper, by just four votes on Tuesday out of 4,558 ballots cast.
Democrat John F. Foster beat his opponent, Gary Wester, by just 15 votes out of 3,141 ballots cast.
Because both Cooper and Wester lost by less than one-half of 1 percentage point, both are entitled to ask for a recount when the ballots are certified this month. The vote totals could also shift if there are provisional or military ballots to be tallied.
Both the Wester and the Cooper campaigns told the Post-Dispatch they are considering asking for a recount. The 102nd House District takes in all or parts of O’Fallon, Dardenne Prairie, Weldon Spring and New Melle.
The campaigns even floated the possibility of asking for a new election after the Monticello Clubhouse polling location in O’Fallon was closed for about 90 minutes on Tuesday morning.
“This isn’t sour grapes,” said Jan Wester, wife of Gary Wester. “We want fair elections.”
Cooper and Jan Wester also said it was possible the campaigns would ask for a new election just at the Monticello Clubhouse precinct. Cooper lives nearby, and said many of his friends and his neighbors were prevented from voting on Tuesday morning.
“People were cheated out of their right to vote,” Cooper said. “I was there at 5:50. From 6 o’clock until 7:30, the polls were closed and no one could come in. There was a crowd of people standing out there.”
Rich Chrismer, the chief of the St. Charles County Election Authority, said the polling place was not opened on time because the clubhouse’s management changed the building’s locks over the weekend without telling election officials.
Maura Browning, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, said county officials told state officials Tuesday morning that the building had been struck by lightning over the weekend, somehow preventing access.
Chrismer said that turned out to be an unfounded rumor.
He cast doubt on whether a judge would order a new election.
“Nobody was not allowed to vote,” he said. “The issue was we were not allowed to get into the building.”
Paul DeGregorio, former director of the St. Louis County Election Board, said he spoke with Cooper and thought Cooper could have standing to ask for a special election.
“The fact that this polling station did not open till 7:30 is really uncalled for,” he said. “There’s no excuse for that.”
Chrismer said that for a new election to be ordered there would have to be irregularities attributed to the actions of the election authority.
“If we rent a building and the building is not accessible to us because they changed the locks, the election authority didn’t cause that,” he said.
He added that voters were told they could cast ballots at the St. Charles County elections headquarters, or to come back later.
DeGregorio, also former chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, countered: “That’s putting a burden on the voter to do that. You’re asking people to drive to his place to do that ... A judge could rule that that’s an undue burden.”