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Poll worker describes Election Day problems

By   /   November 10, 2010  /   News  /   6 Comments

Freida Keough’s job on Election Day was to drive around and check polling places in St. Louis County. Due to a computer problem in the state’s capital, Keough said she watched as several voters left in frustration.

Keough said she personally witnessed at least three people leave and she heard from a number of poll workers who noticed others exiting polling places.

“I convinced one lady to stay and vote,” Keough told Missouri Watchdog. “But if you have two to three leaving at each polling place, that starts to add up.”

The problems started when a piece of computer hardware, operated by the secretary of state’s office in Jefferson City, failed, preventing poll workers across Missouri from accessing the electronic database designed to verify voter registration information.

As Missouri Watchdog reported last week, one of the load balancers — a piece of computer hardware that manages Internet traffic by determining how requests are sent to servers — is to blame for the problems.

Laura Egerdal, a spokesperson for the Missouri Secretary of State, said after the problem was identified, traffic was rerouted and everything started to work again. She said the problem was fixed by early afternoon.

Egerdal told Missouri Watchdog the secretary of state’s office spoke with nearly all of the local election authorities around the state and there were no reports of voters being kept from voting. She also stressed, several times, there were other ways for poll workers to look up voters who did not appear in poll books.

One of the methods to verify registered voters was to use a mobile phone to call local election authorities.

But Keough said that she and others had problems throughout the day getting a hold of anyone at the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners.

“We could never get through,” she said. “We gave up.”

Keough, a Republican, was a roving deputy for the St. Louis County election authority. She was paired with a Democrat. The two spent the whole day driving to polling places in the southern part of the county.

This was the first time Keough worked as a poll worker, therefore she did not know what to expect, she said.  “I first thought voter turnout was part of the problem. But the biggest problem was poll workers were overwhelmed with trying to verify registered voters.”

Despite the problems she experienced at the polls on Election Day, Keough said she still plans to work as a poll worker for St. Louis County in the future. “The next time I know to ask more specific questions,” she said.

By Brian R. Hook[email protected], (314) 482-7944

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Brian formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • According to the RFT, officials in Jefferson County and St. Louis County had Palm Pilots with the information on it: “Authorities in Jefferson County and St. Louis County used palm pilots to verify such voters, and St. Louis City quickly transitioned to verifying via databases that had previously been downloaded onto laptops.” (http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2010/11/ed_martin_wont_concede_but_has_he_lost.php )

    Are you saying that’s not the case?

  • KellyJaye

    I may be wrong, but it seems the bigger problem is is that this kind of problem seems to happen EVERY year.

  • Adam

    KellyJaye, I don’t think the St. Louis County Board of Elections has *ever* picked up a phone on election day. I don’t know what’ wrong with them and why they never even attempt to make improvements.

  • Brian R. Hook

    Adam: The Palm Pilots in south St. Louis County were providing garbled information and were not reliable, according to Keough.

    Poll workers and voters: I would love to hear from other poll workers or voters who experienced problems. Also, feel free to contact me if everything went smoothly for you.

    Thanks for reading Missouri Watchdog – BRH

  • Thanks for posting this and for the response. I think what this indicates is that there are serious problems with the St. Louis County Board of Elections. I know there have been problems every year since 2002 in the County. Many of the same problems happen every year, and as far as I can tell, every year their phones are off-line.

  • FYI, reports of Washington University students wrongfully purged from voter rolls and denied provisional ballots. Complaint filed by the Advancement Project: http://stlactivisthub.blogspot.com/2010/11/advancement-project-files-complaint.html