ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Private security guards did not touch any ballots or interfere with voting at the St. Louis City Board of Elections headquarters, a Republican election commissioner said Thursday.
Commissioner Carol Wilson said all three commissioners opposed the Democratic chairman's decision to hire the private firm on election day because the company had worked for Democrat Russ Carnahan's campaign. But she said the two guards who worked at the location did not affect the electoral process.
"I firmly believe that the election was conducted honestly, but I see there is the perception that this could have been an issue," Wilson said. She said commissioners had been prohibited to speak about the situation, but she felt it was important to challenge the notion that any ballots had been tampered with.
Republican Ed Martin is demanding an investigation into the security firm's hiring and alleges other voting irregularities after narrowly losing Tuesday's election for Missouri's 3rd Congressional District to Carnahan.
Martin sent a letter to supporters Wednesday raising questions about the security firm, saying "We do not know why they were hired, or what their role was for this election." He used the letter as a fundraising tool, asking supporters to contribute to the "Count Every Vote" effort.
Wilson said the guards watched the front door of the election board's downtown office. She said they did not take any part in the election process beyond watching who came and went.
"I'm really sorry Ed lost the election," Wilson said. "But he lost it, they didn't take it from him."
Martin said Thursday it was "some consolation" to know the guards did not handle ballots.
"It's just the appearance," he said. "If the integrity of the process is compromised with regards to hiring, what else is?"
Wilson said election board's three commissioners told commission Chairwoman Eileen McCann not to hire the firm, called Special Services. The company had provided security for the Carnahan campaign in August, presenting the appearance of a conflict, Wilson said. The commission already had police protection, and the commissioners didn't think Special Services was necessary.
"It's often the perception more than the reality that becomes the issue. Three of us tried to avert that," she said.
McCann would not comment beyond saying the commission had hired Special Services for the 2008 election. When asked about opposition to the hiring this year, she alluded to the fact that she was named chairman in July and replaced Wilson in that position.
"I have no comment. I can't fix people's personal issues because the governor made a change in personnel on the board," McCann said.
Martin is no stranger to political investigations. His last political post was chief of staff for former Republican Gov. Matt Blunt. He used the position as a pulpit to point out alleged political corruption. A frequent target was Blunt's chief political opponent: then-Attorney General Jay Nixon, who later succeeded Blunt as governor.
Martin said Thursday he didn't trust several aspects of this week's election, including the fact there were apparently no provisional ballots cast in rural Jefferson County, even though a state voter registration database was down for several hours.
"It gives you pause," he said.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)