How local clerks are working to ensure voter integrity
ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- In just one month, Americans will head to the polls for the mid-term elections but many people on both sides of the river might have some questions about voter integrity.
Marjorie Kenny doesn’t quite get around like she used to and going to vote doesn’t top her to-do list.
“I didn’t like standing in line, so I didn’t go to the polls and vote,” she said.
She told News 4 she was shocked to receive a letter recently from Monroe County Illinois, where she’s lived for decades, telling her she was suspended.
“I was shocked, I had never heard they could remove someone from voting,” Kenny said.
The County Clerk’s Office had suspended her voter registration due to inactivity.
“You have a right to vote, they can’t just take it away from you,” Kenny said.
“I was just so appalled,” said her daughter Diane, who is concerned.
“I think their intention was for voter suppression,” she said.
“It’s our job to maintain the voter registration list, part of that job is doing these voter purges as we call them,” said Monroe County Clerk Johnathan McLean, a Republican. He told News 4 the law allows them to keep voting records clean.
“We are always looking at obituaries, we are cross referencing land records, just to try to figure out if someone has moved or has passed away and it’s a very difficult job,” he said.
But this year, McLean did make a more concerted effort, suspending around 2,000 registrations.
“It’s one of those things where every 10 years it makes sense to actually go in and do the purge,” he said.
A simple call to the office and Marjorie was re-activated.
“No one will be turned away,” McLean said. “A suspended voter can still show here or the polling place and still vote.”
McLean said he spends a lot of time trying to build trust - in the people who work the polls and the machines that count ballots.
“Having an election that is fair and transparent is very important to me,” he said.
Hundreds of miles away in Jefferson City, Missouri, News 4 went to the top election authority, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who also walks a fine line.
“Is it sometimes an uncomfortable position to be in when people are questioning elections, even in your own party?” asked News 4 Chief Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager. “You know it is, but it’s just part and parcel of the job, I get to do this,” Ashcroft answered.
Nationwide, elections have been far from boring. Former President Donald Trump and other GOP leaders continue to allude to widespread voter fraud. Though exhaustive research by the Associated Press and other media outlets could find only a few hundred instances around the country, nothing that would have changed the outcome of the presidential election in 2020.
“Do you think there were widespread voter integrity, fraud in 2020?” asked Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager. “I haven’t been able to find widespread fraud or integrity issues in MO,” said Ashcroft.
“The people in Missouri chose Donald Trump. I do not speak to what other states do, I can speak to the elections run in Missouri and I know they were clean and by the people,” he said.
“Is that a concern for you, that they continue to say there was widespread voter fraud?” Trager asked. “Obviously, I think Democrats would say that and Republicans would point to 2016. with federal investigations into dirty tricks predicated by Democrats. I would really like to take the partisanship out of it,” Ashcroft said.
Ashcroft told News 4 they’ve referred only a few cases for prosecution.
“If you do cheat, we are going to come after you and do our best to make sure they get prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he said.
A News 4 search revealed just one recent case: former Berkeley mayor Theodore Hoskins, who’s awaiting trial in St. Louis County for election law violations and forgery. Still, skepticism grows.
A poll conducted by KMOV and other Gray Television stations around Missouri found that close to 1 in 4 people surveyed said they had “little to no confidence” that upcoming election results would be counted accurately.
Ashcroft supports recent Voter ID legislation says he will be pushing laws to allow elections to be audited.
Back in Monroe County Marjorie isn’t feeling too optimistic and not just about voting.
“I don’t know which way the country is going; nobody seems to know,” she said. “It doesn’t matter which party is in, I don’t know, it’s a sad situation.”
But elected leaders don’t want you to feel despondent. They want you make your voices heard.
There’s still time to check your voter registrations where you live and show up to vote.
The election officials we talked to, also said they welcome questions and want to pull back the curtain on the process.
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