Removal of Rita Days follows our exclusive report on warnings sent before the election about likelihood of paper ballot shortages...
By Brad Friedman on 1/21/2015, 12:03am PT  

St. Louis County Director of Elections Rita Days, a former Democratic state Senator who we reported on last November, was unanimously removed from office by the County Board of Elections Commissioners on Tuesday night, according to a late report from KMOV...

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV.com) --- After coming under scrutiny for problems during last year's elections, the St. Louis County Director of Elections is being forced out of her position.

Rita Days was unanimously voted out of the position by the Board of Elections Commission.

Days came under criticism last November when thousands of voters had to wait longer than expected because polling stations ran out of paper ballots.

There is not yet word on who will replace Days.

In the weeks following the November 2014 election, The BRAD BLOG reported exclusively on emails sent to Days by local Election Integrity advocates in advance of the election, advising that her plan for deploying paper ballots would likely fall short of demand on Election Day. It did. As St. Louis Public Radio reported on the day after the election, "unexpected demand for paper ballots caused a shortage at about 95 polling places throughout the county Tuesday. That's more than 20 percent of the county's 444 balloting sites."

But, as we detailed in our own report, the demand was not "unexpected", as Days had been warned, well in advance, about the likelihood of paper ballots running out...

While St. Louis County poll sites allow voters to vote on either unverifiable touch-screen systems or optically-scanned hand-marked paper ballots on Eleciton Day, Days had planned for enough paper ballots at each precinct to cover just 15% of voters, even though, according to analyses of previous elections by the local election experts, that number of paper ballots wouldn't be enough.

The Election Integrity advocates expressed their concern in writing to Days several weeks earlier, though she seemed less than worried, as we reported at the time...

In an email sent to Days on October 20th, Dr. Cynthia Richards, President of Missourians for Honest Elections (MoHE), a non-partisan advocacy group that has been encouraging the use of hand-marked paper ballots for years in the Show Me State, said the organization was "concerned" there might not "be enough paper ballots at every polling place on November 4th to cover all of the voters who would like to have one."

Days responded to the email two days later, on October 22nd, to say that they had planned to allow voters the option of voting on paper or electronic systems, as they have for years, that 15% would be enough in most cases, but that the county was prepared to print more ballots on the day of the election if it was needed.

"We are committed to giving voters the option of voting via paper or electronic," Days wrote in her response at the time to Richards. "We have slated 15% paper for election day. When poll workers notice that voters are using more paper than ivotronics [the 100% unverifiable touch-screen systems], they let the deputies know, they give us a call and we are prepared to deliver more paper ballots if that becomes necessary. If we are down to the last hour, we will not have an opportunity to deliver the ballots unless they are in the general vicinity of the election board."

Another long-time Election Integrity advocate, Phillip Michaels of Missouri's Coalition for Transparent and Secure Elections (CTSE), also wrote to Days expressing his concern that "in the years other than Presidential elections, the percentage of votes on paper has been a steady 20%."

"I know you are in the thick of your election prep now," Michaels wrote to the Election Director on October 23rd, "I just wanted to raise a possible warning flag."

In fact, many voters reportedly refused to vote on the unverifiable systems on Electino Day and were told to return later after more ballots could be delivered. It is unknown how many voters never returned. A number of precincts across the county --- including some in the embattled town of Ferguson, where there had been a specific push to turn out voters last November --- were forced to stay open an hour or two after the normal closing time in order to accommodate voters either waiting for paper ballots to arrive or to vote on the touch-screen systems which take much longer.

"We are prepared to print more paper ballots should the need arise," Days responded to Michaels. "We are trying to eliminate some of the waste when the paper ballots are not used. If you determine that some of the polling places you are watching is [sic] running low on paper ballots, please let me know and I will address the situation immediately."

Richards told The BRAD BLOG at the time that the County spent "spent $2.47 per registered voter to conduct the 2012 Presidential Election," with several touch-screens per polling place, as well as paper ballots. "By contrast," she said, "Jackson County, which only uses hand marked paper ballots (with ballot marking devices for the disabled) spent only $1.52 per registered voter for the same election."

After the embarrassment of voters being turned away or forced to wait on long lines, Days told the Election Commission in the days that followed that officials ordered 30,000 extra blank ballots to be flown in from a Kansas company on Election Day. "The cost to taxpayers was $4,675 including $2,875 for the charter flight," St. Louis' local Fox affiliate reported on November 18th.

At the time, according to Fox 2, Days "told the St. Louis County Election Commissioners the staff was embarrassed by the shortages and she blamed it in part on an incorrect formula used to estimate how many ballots would be needed."

If that was the explanation for the problem, in fact, as we had reported a day earlier, Days should have known better after receiving the several emailed warnings from the long-time election advocates.

• See our original exclusive, including more from the emails and analyses by the Election Integrity advocates, right here...

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