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New election ordered in Franks-Hubbard case

ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison ordered a new election in the dispute between Bruce Franks and Rep. Penny Hubbard late Friday, stating in his decision that absentee ballots improperly cast could have affected the outcome of the race. Hubbard won by just 90 votes.

The results of that primary no longer stand and a new election will take place Friday, Sept. 16. Burlison made his decision based on 142 in-person absentee ballots cast at the St. Louis Election Board’s offices. The board did not use absentee ballot envelopes for these votes, which violated Missouri law. Burlison did not rule that Hubbard or members of her campaign acted fraudulently in their absentee ballot campaign.

“No credible evidence was presented from which this court could find that any voter fraudulently cast a vote in this case,” Burlison wrote.

Franks has fought for a month to get a new election, and the order means he has another chance to make his case for the next two weeks to the people of the 78th District for their vote.

However, Jane Dueker, Hubbard’s counsel on the case, said the ruling and the order could actually hurt the district when it comes to having their voices heard.

First, she said holding the election on a Friday could confuse many voters, and she said the new, limited time frame of the election, just two weeks, will make it difficult for absentee voters to cast their ballots in the race, which she suspects Franks and his attorney, Dave Roland, wanted.

“They set out to not have absentees, and they’re going to likely get their wish,” she said.

She added that certified election results will go out the day general election military ballots are supposed to be sent out, and just four days before absentee ballots are released for the general election.

Dueker also stressed that this could have ramifications outside of this election, regarding compliancy with the Help America Vote Act and just the sheer number of people that may have to vote in certain jurisdictions if they lack confidence in the absentee process or cannot vote absentee in person before the election.

“St. Louis County is likely to have 60,000 absentee votes in the general,” she said. “If they aren’t allowed to use machines for in-person absentee voting, you will wait days to get results out of St. Louis County alone.

“This is a nightmare, regardless of this primary.”

While Dueker said she was pleased the ruling “vindicated” Hubbard from an article published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this week, she said that she and her co-counsel, Rep. Mike Colona, would appeal the case.