With little more than a month until November’s midterm elections, the integrity of our upcoming vote remains top of mind for many of us. Every week, it seems like concerns about foreign interference or the security of our voting processes make news.
And these aren’t just national storylines. Here in St. Louis, candidates and community members continue to raise questions about the integrity of our own local elections.
During the August primary, there were multiple reports of issues with the voting process — effectively disenfranchising voters in these contests. Two years ago, following a contentious court fight, our city had to redo two elections after some votes were improperly cast and counted. And, in the past two election cycles, our Board of Elections has certified three different candidates for collector of revenue onto the ballot who were later removed because they were ineligible for the position under the law.
With all this in mind, is it any wonder state and federal prosecutors alike have launched criminal investigations into our local election process in recent years?
Free and fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy. We place our trust in the electoral process every time we cast a ballot. Evidence of voter fraud is a stain on our democracy. The validity of that process should never be in doubt.
Our city, and the citizens who live in it, depend on the Board of Elections to conduct our elections and to do all it can to protect our confidence and participation in them.
As a leader in this community, I can no longer stay silent on these important issues. I am firmly committed to doing my part to restore integrity to the voting process in the city of St. Louis. The solutions start with the Board of Elections. That’s why I recently met with the Board of Elections and asked them to do more to safeguard our local democratic processes.
We need better communication, cooperation, leadership and more accountability to ensure the integrity of our public elections.
To reduce potential voter fraud or even the appearance of voter fraud, the board should comply with the law to verify voting records by canvassing the jurisdiction every two years. This would include an audit of current records, the purging of old records and the verification of voter registrations.
The board should recruit enough qualified election judges for both parties and train them to take appropriate steps to prevent fraud at the polls.
The board should require potential candidates to sign legally binding waivers verifying their current good-standing status on all tax obligations for local, state and federal taxes. Mayoral appointments and similar nominations already do their due diligence with a quick check of tax records. The board has multiple reasons to install a similar process for political candidates, and the Collector of Revenue Office is a willing partner for this task.
Most basic eligibility issues can be prevented with better and more accessible information. The board should update the current Board of Elections website with accurate candidate qualifications, requirements, rules and deadlines for all elected officials.
Age and residency are easily checked on any number of the documents. Tax delinquency checks are also already common practice; they are required when anyone applies for a business license in the city of St. Louis. There’s no reason we can’t do the same for political candidates.
When errors occur, enforcing these candidate requirements should be the board’s responsibility, not an expense outsourced to only those candidates who can afford expensive lawsuits.
The board should take a proactive role in encouraging more citizens to participate in running for public office by attending neighborhood meetings and fostering a sense of fairness in the voting process. The city needs strong, diverse leaders, and the board has a responsibly to create a culture where people want to serve.
The people of St. Louis have a right to a fair and accountable electoral process, and they deserve a Board of Elections working hard and taking concrete steps to provide one. Working together, we can address these issues and install the solutions we need right now — and prevent the next election-related issue before it happens.