Election day is now only days away. Take this one action now--check to see if you are truly registered. We are at a turning point in American history in more ways than one, and having our vote received and counted is essential to our future. Among the many tricks in the book of election shenanigans is the old standard of purging the voter rolls at the last minute-- illegal, but a known maneuver. This apparently actually happened in St. Louis City in 2000, disenfranchising hundreds or even thousands of voters. You may remember the uproar. Since then a great deal of work has been done to prevent such an occurrence from happening here again. In fact this evening Jonah Goldman of Election Protection appeared on Channel 5 NBC News.
Still we have had reportedly ten percent of the voters in Missouri removed from the lists. Could you be among them?
Since 2002 a lot of changes have occurred in our voting systems, and one of them is the installation of Missouri Centralized Voter Registration (MCVR), with the Secretary of State-- or chief election officer-- keeping one computerized version of the rolls from all over the state. The object of this is supposed to be to keep any voter from voting in more than one place. Never mind that the statistical instances of this happening are virtually nil. It was written into the Help America Vote Act, the biggest recreant legislation Congress ever pulled over on the American people.
Naturally the new computerized data systems have been found to be faulty in some states, with suspicions surrounding them, as though the new voting machines were not already enough of a problem. The new software is really a middleman added to the more tried and true older methods of local control.
St. Louis City and County have used these new MCVR systems several times already to work the bugs out, and bugs they have had too. Fortunately we still have access here to the plain old voter sign-in books, and chances are that we will have smooth and cool poll workers in enough numbers to compensate, if we can all be patient with the process. If you happen to be voting late in the day, please stay to ask whether the number of votes counted is equal to the number of voters who signed the book. Say your "please" and "thank yous" to the poll workers, whom we often under appreciate.
But, before Tuesday arrives, if you are like me you might want to look up your name on the Secretary of State's website, if, like me, you had heard you could do that. Attempting to use it turned out to be futile, so that duty of confirming registrations has been punted back to the counties, after the website problems were reported to the SoS office.
When I called the County Board of Election Commissioners (BoEC), they had received so many new registrants (about 50,000) that they had already postponed using the Missouri Centralized Registration until after this major election.
This entire situation of numerous new voters and highest turnouts ever expected should alert us to the need to check your registration ahead of time, especially for new or changed registrations. Don't wait until Tuesday to call. The phone lines will be busy enough that day.
The County continues to use the system they have always used and found my name with my current address readily. The employee who spoke to me on the phone was terrific, and encouraged me to send others to the phone to check their own registrations if they feel the need. So in St. Louis County, if you have any question about whether you are properly registered. call them at (314) 615-1800. They are receiving massive numbers of calls, of course, so be patient, hang on the line until someone answers. And don't wait until election day to check-- call ahead of time.
The St. Louis City Board of Election reports that they have also received numerous calls from individual who could not find themselves listed on the MCVR. Therefore you are advised to call them at (314) 644-4336.
When you do finally go to vote the lines may be long, so request a paper ballot, which takes less time than the touch screens and is also hand recountable. Remember to bring along an ID that shows your current address, or a recently postmarked utility bill or government letter. If your registration is not on the list you can check to see if there are two election judges who recognize you from a previous election-- they can co-sign you into the book.
Or they may be able to look back in the book for your name. If not you can vote on a provisional ballot, although this should only be done as a last resort. You should never take a provisional ballot if you are at the wrong polling place. Instead, if you are unsure, vote early enough to have the time to go to the right place. A poll worker can look up your address for you to see if it is served by this specific polling place and send you to the right one. Some polling places have been consolidated, so confusion may occur. Your polling place is always listed on the card you receive from the BoEC a few days before the election, and that card is also a piece of government mail that can be used as your ID. Put it in your wallet the minute you receive it.
If you are certain you are registered and in the right place, but not being allowed to vote for some reason, your next move is to request a provisional ballot. The envelope it is in has a detachable ticket that gives you an 800 number to call later to be certain your vote was counted. In some cases you may be required to provide further documentation that you do live at the address you have claimed.
Never leave without voting! Read the signs about your voting rights and insist, politely, that you are here to vote. If you are time pressed and know you are in the right place but being told you are not on the list, request to vote on a provisional ballot. If all else fails and you cannot get help from the poll workers where you are, call Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR VOTE. Your call will be rerouted to the local advocates of Voter Protection Coalition in St. Louis where volunteer lawyers can answer your questions, speak to the election judges for you, and if necessary come to your polling place to intervene.
If you have been convicted of a felony but have served all of your time including parole or probation you are qualified to vote in Missouri although you must have been registered before the deadline, which is now passed.
This year the BoEC will mail you a card that has your complete ballot issues and candidates listed on it. You can also download this information ahead of time at
or (for city) http://www.stlelections.com/images/pdfs/samp%20ballot%20nov.pdf
By the way, in some other states now, as in Ohio in 2004, the vote count online reporting is being funnelled through a software middleman. Bev Harris is asking people to use VideoTheVote.org to record the vote counting. Perhaps if you have a press card the election directors will allow you to do this.
Or possibly candidates will be allowed to do so.
This is a turning point in our nation's history, and we are all responsible for increasing our vigilance over the voting rights that we have won over the centuries. Prepare ahead of time and make your voice heard through a PAPER ballot.
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