Missouri, 2000

November 10, 2007

The 2000 election was hotly contested in Missouri, and various irregularities led to inflated claims of widespread fraud. Many of these fraud claims were later used to support the call for restrictive ID requirements. We examined each of the allegations of fraud by individual voters -- the only sort that ID could possibly address -- to uncover the truth behind the assertions.

The allegations yielded only six substantiated cases of Missouri votes cast by ineligible voters, knowingly or unknowingly, except for those votes permitted by court order. The six cases were double votes by four voters -- two across state lines and two within Missouri -- amounting to an overall rate of 0.0003%. None of these problems could have been resolved by requiring photo ID at the polls.

The analysis below examines the allegations of fraud in more detail.

The rate of substantiated fraud:

  • The allegations of fraud related to the 2000 general elections, in which 124,752 votes were cast in St. Louis City, 497,577 votes were cast in St. Louis County, and 2,361,586 votes were cast in all of Missouri.
There were six substantiated cases of Missouri votes cast by ineligible voters, knowingly or unknowingly, except for those votes permitted by court order. These six cases were double votes by four voters -- two across state lines and two within Missouri. This amounts to a rate of 0.0003%. None of these problems could have been resolved by requiring photo ID at the polls.

  • Even given allegations that were unsubstantiated, the rate of possible fraud remains low. The analysis below lays out the allegations, reasons to question each, and the facts that we now know. But assuming that all 278 of the remaining questionable allegations -- including 14 voters with allegedly invalid addresses, 114 allegedly ineligible persons with felony convictions, 68 allegedly double voters (at two votes apiece), and 14 votes in the names of allegedly deceased individuals -- in fact represent ineligible votes, that would amount to a rate of 0.045% within St. Louis City and County and 0.012% within the state as a whole. If all 14 votes in the names of allegedly deceased individuals in fact proved fraudulent and were cast in person, these votes -- 0.002% within St. Louis City and County and 0.0006% within the state as a whole -- might possibly have been resolved by requiring photo ID at the polls.

    Note: this analysis does not include 228 unsubstantiated cases of alleged double voting across the state reported by the Kansas City Star, because they did not distinguish between votes cast in 2000 and 2002. In the 2002 general election, 1,877,620 votes were cast in Missouri.

The allegations:

  • 79 votes were cast from allegedly invalid addresses.
  • 14 addresses in St. Louis City were allegedly “drop sites” where fraudulent registrations might have been processed.
  • Between 62 and 114 people in St. Louis City and County allegedly rendered ineligible because of felony convictions cast ballots, based on a computer match of voting rolls against federal and state conviction records.
  • Between 23 and 68 St. Louis-area voters allegedly voted twice in 2000, based on a review of the voting rolls of St. Louis City and County. More than 300 people allegedly voted twice in 2000 or 2002, within the state or once in Kansas and once in Missouri, based on a computer match of voting rolls statewide.
  • 14 votes in St. Louis City and County were cast in the names of allegedly dead people, based on a computer match of voting rolls against Department of Health records.

Additional allegations of irregularities unconnected to individual voter fraud:

  • In St. Louis, approximately 49,589 eligible voters were removed from the active voter rolls and placed on an “inactive list” after postcards allegedly sent to them were returned as undeliverable. At many polling places, the “inactive lists” were not made available, and these voters were allegedly unlawfully instructed that they could not vote at their regular precinct, but instead had to travel to the central city office to wait on lengthy lines to affirm their registered status, and then return to their original polling places to vote. Some voters were still on line at the central office when the polls closed, and were not able to return to their polling places to vote.
  • In St. Louis, the polls were kept open by court order until 7:45pm, 45 minutes past the original closing time. The lead plaintiff requesting this order was allegedly deceased, although later review showed that the plaintiff’s name had been typed with an incorrect middle initial; the legal filings also stated that this plaintiff had been unable to vote when he had in fact voted. The effort to keep the polls open was alleged to have been conceived before election day. The delayed closing time allowed at least 100 voters to vote who otherwise would have arrived at the polls too late to cast a vote.
  • At least 342 voters in St. Louis City and 891 voters in St. Louis County were allegedly improperly granted a court order allowing them to vote. The effort to seek court orders was also alleged to have been conceived before election day. Most of these voters allegedly gave insufficient reasons for obtaining a court order, although the report arriving at this conclusion stated an inaccurately high threshold for obtaining a court order. 143 of these voters allegedly had not been registered by the voter registration deadline; it is not clear if any of the other voters were ineligible to vote.
  • 45 election judges in St. Louis City allegedly not registered to vote were later found to be validly registered; all were thought invalid because of typographical errors.
  • St. Louis City had more names registered on the voting rolls than the voting-age population of the city, and 24,000 names were also listed as registered elsewhere in Missouri.
  • Ballot boxes were allegedly left unattended at 29 precincts.

Questioning the allegations:

  • Improper addresses: For several reasons, allegedly improper addresses may not show fraud. Apartment numbers may be incorrectly read as part of a street address by computerized matching systems, causing the system to reject an accurate address. A typographical or other data entry error may make a legitimate address appear fictitious (or appear to be located outside of the relevant precinct). A voter may be registered as living in a building that has been demolished since the registration was processed; if the voter moved within the same precinct, she may not be required to re-register. In addition, an individual (e.g., a site manager of a business) may actually live at what appears to be an invalid business address.
  • Voters ineligible because of conviction: Claims that individuals rendered ineligible by conviction have voted are often supported by attempts to match conviction records to the voter rolls, but the matching enterprise may be unreliable. Two list entries under the same name -- even the same name and birthdate -- may indicate different individuals. In other circumstances, a convicted individual is mistakenly presumed ineligible, when she has been convicted after the election, convicted of a crime that does not result in the loss of voting rights, or has had her rights restored. In yet other cases, a pollworker error causes a person who never cast a ballot to be listed as voting.
  • Double voters: The fact that the same name is listed as voting on two different voting rolls does not necessarily mean that one person voted twice: often, what looks like the same person listed twice turns out to be two different individuals with the same name and/or birthday. In other cases, clerical errors may be responsible for the double listing.
  • Dead voters: Just as with convictions and double voters, attempts to match records of deaths to current voter rolls are unreliable. Two list entries under the same name -- even the same name and birthdate -- may indicate different individuals. Even more often, the lists themselves are flawed: because of a clerical error or faulty information, an individual is marked as voting when she did not in fact cast a ballot, or an individual is shown as deceased when she is actually very much alive. Finally, it is possible that the match is accurate but reveals nothing illegal about the vote: the voter has died, yes, but after casting her ballot.

The facts:

  • Improper addresses: 79 individuals listed as voting in St. Louis City were registered from addresses alleged to be vacant lots. Further investigation found that properties that were wrongly classified by the city assessor’s office as vacant in fact contained legitimate residences. Only 14 voters were found to be listed as registered from vacant lots, at least one of whom was apparently victim of a typographical error, and three more of whom moved within St. Louis City and may not have been required to re-register with a new address before voting.

    The 14 alleged “drop sites” in St. Louis City were addresses that were determined to be locations other than apartment buildings, nursing homes, or recognizable group homes where more than eight people were registered at each location. Seven of these addresses were actually visited by reporters, and all seven visits revealed that more than eight people properly lived at the address noted.

  • Voters ineligible because of conviction: 62 individuals listed as voting in St. Louis City and County matched the name, date of birth, and Social Security number of individuals listed on federal court records of felony conviction, and 52 individuals listed as voting in St. Louis County matched the name and date of birth of individuals listed on county records of felony conviction. It is not clear whether there was any overlap between the list of 62 and the list of 52, nor is it clear whether any of the individuals had had their rights restored before the election. We are not aware of any public reported analysis of poll records to determine whether individuals listed as voting actually voted and were not listed as voting due to a clerical error or mistakenly listed instead of an eligible voter with the same name and birthdate.
  • Double voters: 23 individuals listed as voting on the voter rolls maintained by St. Louis City and County matched the name, date of birth, and Social Security number of another individual listed as voting; 45 individuals matched the name and date of birth of another voter. We are not aware of any public reported analysis of these poll records to determine whether individuals listed as voting actually voted twice and were not listed as voting due to a clerical error or mistakenly confused with another eligible voter with the same name and birthdate.

    Based on a match of name and date of birth, 150 individuals from St. Louis – presumably including the individuals above – were listed as voting twice in 2000 or 2002, and 150 other matches were found in 2000 or 2002 across the rest of the state. The same analysis acknowledged that the “computer files contain many errors that show people voting who did not actually vote.” Of 18 Kansas City cases that reporters followed up, 13 were shown to result from clerical errors, 2 were uncertain, and 3 appeared to show double voting in Missouri and Kansas – 2 in 2000 and 1 in 2002. (At least two of these were convicted in federal court.) One other case of double voting within Missouri in 2000, and one in 2002, were substantiated using poll records.

  • Dead voters: 14 individuals listed as voting on the voter rolls maintained by St. Louis City and County matched the name, date of birth, and Social Security number of individuals listed as deceased on records of the Missouri Department of Health. It is not clear whether any of these individuals died after the election. We are not aware of any public reported analysis of poll records to determine whether individuals listed as voting actually voted and were not listed as voting due to a clerical error.

Coverage by existing law:
Proper implementation of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) – passed after (and to some extent, because of) this election -- would have addressed most of these allegations. HAVA requires states to create statewide electronic voter registration lists with each eligible voter listed uniquely to remove duplicate registrations, and to coordinate those computerized lists with agency records on death and conviction in order to remove ineligible voters. Although the obligation to maintain these cleaned lists predated HAVA, the computerized registration rolls -- if implemented with suitable controls for accuracy -- offer a new and efficient means to do so statewide. Like most states, Missouri did not have a statewide computerized database up and running in 2000, but now that it does, the database should allow the state to sharply reduce even the small number of alleged invalid votes due to allegedly improper registrations.

<<Back to Case Studies by State

Sources:
St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners, St. Louis County Election Results, November 2000.
Office of Secretary of State, Election Night Reporting: November 7, 2000 General Election.
U.S. Dept. of Justice, Criminal Division, Public Integrity Section, Federal Election Fraud Prosecutions and Convictions, Ballot Access And Voting Integrity Initiative, October 2002 to September 2005 (Nov. 7, 2005).
Greg Reeves, Votes Raise Question of Fraud, Kansas City Star, Oct. 17, 2004, at B1.
Greg Reeves, One Person, One Vote?, Kansas City Star, Sept. 5, 2004, at A1.
Editorial, How America Doesn’t Vote, N.Y. Times, Feb. 15, 2004.
Editorial: Our Motto: Thimk!, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 1, 2002
Karen Branch-Brioso & Doug Moore, Board Denied Voters’ Rights, U.S. Says, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 23, 2002, at C1.
Bruce Rushton, Dead Man Voting, Riverfront Times, Apr. 24, 2002.
Advancement Project, America’s Modern Poll Tax 16-18, Nov. 7, 2001.
Jo Mannies & Jennifer LaFleur, City Mislabeled Dozens as Voting from Vacant Lots, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 5, 2001, at A1.
Secretary of State Matt Blunt, Mandate for Reform: Election Turmoil in St. Louis, July 24, 2001.
Statement of Sen. Christopher Bond, Hearing on Federal Election Practices and Procedures: Hearing Before the Sen. Comm. on Gov’t Affairs, 107th Cong. (May 3, 2001).
Statement of Rep. William Lacy Clay, Hearing on Federal Election Practices and Procedures: Hearing Before the Sen. Comm. on Gov’t Affairs, 107th Cong. (May 3, 2001).
Jo Mannies, FBI Subpoenas Records from Election Board, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Apr. 17, 2001, at A1.
Stephanie Simon, In St. Louis, Dead Are Causing Lively Debate With Their Votes, L.A. Times, Feb. 28, 2001, at A1.
Jo Mannies and Mark Schlinkmann, Democrats Attempted Vote Fraud, Report Says, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 9, 2001.
Jo Mannies, Problems in City Didn’t Affect Election, Report Says, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 29, 2000, at C1.
Safir Ahmed, Slimin’ the City, Riverfront Times, Nov. 15, 2000.
Carolyn Tuft, Bond Wants Federal Investigation of Problems at City Polls, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 10, 2000.
Carolyn Tuft, GOP, Democrats May Seek Investigation Over City Voting, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 9, 2000.
Missouri ex rel. Bush-Cheney 2000, Inc. v. Baker, 34 S.W.3d 410 (Mo. Ct. App. 2000).

Other resources:
Lorraine Minnite, The Politics of Voter Fraud 28-31 (Mar. 6, 2007).
Lori Minnite & David Callahan, Securing the Vote 42-43 & n.88 (2003).
Greg Reeves, Prosecutor Urged to Examine Reports of Double Voting, Kansas City Star, Sept. 9, 2004, at B4.
Deirdre Shesgreen, Disarray of Election Night in St. Louis Shaped Bond’s Fight for Reform, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oct. 17, 2002, at A8.
Jo Mannies, City Aimed to Repair Its Image in Deal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug. 18, 2002, at B1.
Karen Branch-Brioso, U.S. Offers Settlement to St. Louis Election Board, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 12, 2002, at A1.
Jo Mannies, Blunt Urges Penalties in Allegedly Illegal Voting, July 26, 2001, at A1.
Carolyn Tuft, Grand Jury Looks at Voter Registration, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 14, 2001.