The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

August 12, 2012

Susan Redden: Voter cards become political fodder

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Jasper County clerk’s office had plenty to deal with as the Aug. 7 primary election approached.

Many voters were going to find themselves casting ballots for new legislators in the wake of legislative redistricting that took place after the 2010 census.

The county had purchased digital tablets to speed the voting procedure and was working to get election judges trained on the new devices.

And, there were concerns about the approximately 10,000 voter identification cards that had been returned by the post office because they went to the addresses of now-vacant properties that were damaged or destroyed by the May 22, 2011, tornado in Joplin and Duquesne. Bonnie Earl, Jasper County clerk, issued a call urging people to change their addresses at voter registration offices. She knew some would wait to do that at the polls, while others would go back to their old polling places.

Less than a week before the election, Ed Martin, then candidate and now Republican nominee for Missouri attorney general, used news reports on the number of returned voter cards to slam current Attorney General Chris Koster and Democratic state officials for not doing more to address the problem.

In a press release titled “Koster Fails to Stand Up for Jasper County,” Martin said there should have been an investigation, and that he was “saddened to see the lack of effort” by Gov. Jay Nixon, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan and Koster.

“This is not about politics; it’s about public service and protecting the voters,” Martin said.

Republican Lt. Gov. (and candidate for re-election) Peter Kinder at the same time wrote a letter to Carnahan asking that her office provide assistance to local election officials to ensure that voters were not disenfranchised by the tornado.

“The people of Joplin and Jasper County have lost enough already; they shouldn’t lose their right to vote,” Kinder said.

The issue then caught the attention of some national media, and was used on CNN and Fox News broadcasts, Earl said.

“That bothered me, because this was our fifth election since the tornado,” she said. “We’ve had to make changes, but we’ve managed.”

The number of past elections was cited in a letter from Carnahan’s office back to Kinder. It said the state office believed the local county clerk’s office was well-prepared for the election and would continue to get any necessary help from the state.

There were some lines on Tuesday when some voters waited as their counterparts recorded new addresses with election officials. But Earl said the procedure went fairly smoothly, except for a discovery that some new voter cards printed by the clerk’s office could not be read by the iPad system. In that case, the voter’s name had to be typed on the iPad to bring up voter information.

“The new cards sent from our printer worked fine; it was just those we did at our office,” Earl Said. “We’ll have to get that fixed by November.”

Campaign spending

Lt. Gov. Kinder outspent opponent Brad Lager in what became a contentious primary battle between the two. In reports filed eight days before the election, Kinder reported campaign contributions of more than $3.9 million and expenditures of more than $3.3 million. Lager reported that his campaign received $2.1 million and spent just over $2 million. His collections included $500,000 from David Humphreys of TAMKO Building Products of Joplin.

Susan Montee, who won a crowded Democratic race for the nomination for lieutenant governor, reported campaign collections of $342,690 and expenditures of $193,824.

Dave Spence, who won the GOP nomination for governor, collected just over $4.3 million and spent nearly $4 million. His report listed campaign debts of nearly $760,000.

Gov. Jay Nixon reported campaign collections of nearly $12.2 million, expenditures of nearly $5.1 million, and about $7.1 million in cash on hand.

Susan Redden is a staff writer for the Globe. She can be reached at sredden@joplinglobe.com or 417-623-3480, ext. 7258. Follow her on Twitter @Susan_Redden.

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