Challengers to Hubbard Family Demand Action After Detailing "Extreme Irregularities" in Absentee Ballots

by

PHOTO COURTESY OF FLICKR/STEPHANIE HICKS
"Widespread abuse" of the absentee balloting system may have helped the Hubbard family build its political dynasty, a lawyer alleges in an explosive letter filed today with the Board of Elections.

Attorney Dave Roland, who represents three progressive candidates challenging members of the St. Louis family on Democratic Party primary ballots next month, alleges that past races featuring a Hubbard on the ballot have generated a "quite literally unbelievable" percentage of absentee ballots. He's demanding that the city's Board of Elections step in to monitor absentee balloting in those three races in light of the "extreme irregularities" he's identified.

The letter, hand-delivered to the Board today, lays out Roland's case that absentee ballots comprise far too high a percentage of votes in races involving the family. Absentee ballots are only allowed in St. Louis elections under limited circumstances, including disability or incarceration.

And Roland's analysis shows that the absentee ballots — notched in higher-than-average numbers — have subsquently broken by huge margins for various Hubbards. In two different elections he analyzed, in fact, 95 percent of absentee ballots in a given precinct went to State Rep. Penny Hubbard (D-St. Louis) or Alderwoman Tammika Hubbard. In other races and other precincts he analyzed, Hubbards consistently won more than 70 percent of the absentee ballots, a much higher percentage than their performance at regular polling stations.

That's even though these races — like those that typically decide city elections — have been in the Democratic primary, where simple party identification is not enough to cause a landslide.

And, Roland notes, "the percentage of absentee ballots being cast tends to plummet whenever a Hubbard is not up for election." 

"My clients are concerned that these statistics indicate widespread abuse of the absentee voting process in St. Louis City, and that this abuse seems systematically to favor members of the Hubbard family," Roland writes.

He's asking that the Board respond by day's end with an agreement to closely monitor the absentee ballots in the three races involving his clients — to the point of verifying each application for an absentee ballot via direct contact. He's also asking for election monitors to deliver the absentee ballots, watch them being filled out and then deliver them to the board.

The Hubbard name is a familiar one to St. Louis voters. Penny Hubbard has served multiple terms in the Missouri House. Her son Rodney Jr., who served two terms in the House only to lose a race for Senate, is now a lobbyist and party committeeman, while Tammika Hubbard is a St. Louis alderwoman.

The family is now being challenged by a trio of progressives — part of a slate of younger candidates making a run for party leadership positions this August, as well as some elected offices. 

Activist Bruce Franks is currently running against Penny Hubbard for a seat as state representative, while Megan Betts is challenging her for a seat as Democratic Party committeewoman. And Rasheen Aldridge is challenging Rodney Hubbard for his committeeman seat. All three of those positions involve the city's fifth ward, which Tammika Hubbard currently represents as alderwoman.

Writes Roland, "In election after election, an impossibly high percentage of the total number of votes cast in certain precincts – again, particularly in the 5th Ward – were being cast via absentee ballot, and this effect was especially pronounced if a given precinct was involved in an election where a member of the Hubbard family was on the ballot. Furthermore, in those elections where a member of the Hubbard family was on the ballot it was common for the vast majority of those absentee ballots to be cast in favor of the Hubbard."

State Rep. Penny Hubbard responded to our request for comment with a brief statement. "My family will never apologize for helping seniors and the disabled exercise their constitutional right to vote," she wrote. "This is a slanderous attempt by our opponent to distract the voters from their failing campaign." We also left a message for Tammika Hubbard and will update this post if we hear back.

The full letter is embedded below. Identical copies were sent to each member of the board of elections and hand-delivered this morning, Roland said.

Roland, who is based in Mexico, Missouri, specializes in constitutional law, but said he's developed an expertise in election law thanks to some related cases. 

He says the remedy he's requesting may seem extraordinary, but it would be easier for the board than having to redo the election after the fact. 

"The statute provides for the remedy we are asking for," he says. "It's unusual, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We want to make sure the law is properly applied when it comes to this election — and that means the board has to be proactive."

Editor's note: We updated this story after publication to include a brief written statement from Penny Hubbard. 


We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com



comment