ST. LOUIS - Oral arguments were heard Monday on behalf of a longtime St. Louis lawmaker who’s fighting to keep her seat in office.
State Representative Penny Hubbard narrowly defeated political newcomer Bruce Franks in the Aug. 2 Democratic primary for Missouri’s 78th House District.
Franks had a majority of ballots cast in his favor on election day, but when all the results were certified, Hubbard ended up victorious by just 90 absentee votes.
Franks, through his attorney David Roland, filed a lawsuit to challenge the outcome, claiming there were fraudulent discrepancies with hundreds of absentee ballots.
A circuit judge agreed, ruling the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners violated state law by accepting and counting 142 in-person absentee ballots that weren’t sealed in envelopes, as required by state law. No blame was ever placed on a voter in the ruling.
As a result, the August primary results were tossed out and a new special primary election was set for Friday, September 16.
Hubbard, through her attorney Jane Dueker, challenged the decision to the Missouri Court of Appeals, which took up the case in an expedited manner on Monday afternoon.
Dueker argued that thousands of people should not have their votes thrown out based on a technicality.
She further said that the date of the special election did not allow enough time for permanently disabled voters and others to cast their ballots, saying the winner would be decided by significantly fewer people.
“These are elderly, low income, disabled and minority people who are being disenfranchised. With the short time frame of this election, you’ve effectively cut off absentee for these people,” Dueker contended.
Roland countered by arguing that votes must be considered invalid if the law wasn’t followed throughout the election process.
He said voters in the district deserve another chance, even if the outcome means Franks loses the election again.
“Bruce is aware that people might choose to vote for Penny Hubbard. If they do, then at least we’ll have the confidence it took place in the context of a lawfully conducted election, which is not something they had on Aug. 2,” Roland said.
The appeals court has not indicated when a ruling will be handed down.
Roland and Dueker have indicated that it could come at any time.
Both have also said they would appeal if the decision doesn’t go their way, which would send the case to the Missouri Supreme Court.