Results of April 3 election in Joplin questioned
Monday, June 18, 2012
JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — A former Joplin official contends residents who were displaced after last year’s tornado should not have been allowed to return to their former precincts to vote in an April 3 election in which voters narrowly approved a $62 million bond issue for the city’s schools.
Doug Joyce, former parks and recreation director for Joplin, is asking election officials to put the results of the vote on hold while records are reviewed.
The measure passed by only 46 votes out of the more than 8,600 cast, The Joplin Globe reported (http://bit.ly/LWgSAn).
Jasper County Clerk Bonnie Earl said some Joplin voters who lost their homes after the May 2011 tornado, such as those in Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers in the Webb City School District, were allowed to vote in Joplin because they planned to move back to their former precincts. She said she discussed the decision with the Secretary of State’s office before the vote.
“I told them if they were planning on moving back, they could vote in their old precincts,” she said. “It’s not like they moved by choice; these people had been displaced.”
Joyce, who lives in the Joplin school district, said he is more concerned with how the election was conducted than with the results.
In a letter to the Globe, Joyce said voters who signed in at the polls “were saying that was their correct address, when in most cases, that address was an empty lot.”
Ryan Hobart, spokesman for Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, said the state will not review the election because county clerks are in charge of local votes.
Gregory Magarian, an expert in voting and constitutional law at Washington University in St. Louis, noted the Missouri Constitution allows students who move for college to maintain their home address for voting.
“You can’t vote twice, in two different places, and no one is saying that happened,” he said. “It stands to reason the clerk would display some flexibility because in terms of residence, those folks have experienced the ultimate hardship.”
Last August, Joplin voters were counted in their old precincts but all voted at Northpark Mall in an election that extended the city’s quarter-cent sales tax for parks and stormwater projects. That passed by a large margin.
Some Joplin-area voters may have to change their registration for the Aug. 7 primary, Earl said. She said the clerk’s office is trying to find county residents who have permanently moved and have no plans to return to their former precincts.
Doris Moorehouse, a deputy clerk in the elections office, said the office is still hearing from tornado victims who say they will be back in their old neighborhoods by the primary.
July 11 is the deadline to register or to change addresses on voter registration records for the Aug. 7 primary election.
Information from: The Joplin Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com