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Franks alleges absentee ballot fraud in election loss to Hubbard

ST. LOUIS – A St. Louis candidate for state representative who lost by just 90 votes in the Aug. 2 primary has taken action to seek a recount or an entirely new election.

When community activist Bruce Franks lost to incumbent Rep. Penny Hubbard of the 78th House District, he won more votes on election day. However, Hubbard collected far more absentee votes (just around 80 percent) and narrowly won the election 2,203 votes to 2,113. Franks and a group of his supporters filed a formal challenge to the election results and delivered a form letter to the St. Louis Election Board of Commissioners’ Democratic Director Mary Wheeler-Jones.

The letter insinuates that someone tampered with the absentee votes to give Hubbard the leg up over her challenger. Investigations have just begun this week into these complaints, so it is too early to substantiate their merit.

78 Hubbard
Rep. Penny Hubbard

Should Hubbard’s win stand, she will serve her a fourth and final term in the House over the next two years. Her political career has had some turmoil due to her voting record and her family is well-established in St. Louis political circles. Franks serves as a police community liaison to St. Louis City Police Chief Sam Dotson, owns a small business, and emerged as a nonviolence advocate in the wake of the Ferguson unrest.

He provided the stiffest opposition to her incumbency yet, and should he emerge, he could become one of the most progressive voices in the General Assembly.

The legal filing lays out a few more arguments from Franks. In it, Franks and his attorney, David Roland, allege a suspicious history of absentee voting patterns when a member of the Hubbard family is involved in the election. The district also had a disproportionate number of absentee ballots compared to other voting districts in St. Louis. Roland and Franks also argue that because absentee ballot records are not closed records, the election board should be compelled to release them as Franks requested in July. The board refused to do so a few days later.

Franks also asked the court to compel the board to hold a new election to take place Sept. 12. According to statute, an issue or person can only go on the ballot six weeks before an election. Six weeks before the general election is Sept. 27.

Both the Secretary of State’s office and the election board have started their own investigations into the complaint.

In a release sent Wednesday, the Board of Election Commissioners said they take these kinds of complaints seriously and that they along with the Secretary of State’s office have already launched an investigation. They also said they would refer the case to outside entities

“The written complaint received this morning contained the serious allegation that evidence exists of illegal activity regarding the absentee ballot process,” the board’s release said. “Therefore, we are referring this complaint to the Circuit Attorney and the U.S. Attorney.”

Gary Stoff, the Republican director of the city’s election board, said Thursday that his office had no new information available for the press.

Another Republican voice also weighed in — Secretary of State candidate Jay Ashcroft said he found the allegations of voter fraud “troubling.” He also called on Jason Kander, the man he hopes to replace in January, to conduct an investigation.

“While we don’t yet have all of the facts, it is imperative that the St. Louis City Board of Elections and the Secretary of State conduct a fair and transparent investigation to ensure the public’s trust is restored in our elections.”