Penny Hubbard Ekes Out a Victory — For Now — Against Activist Bruce Franks

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PHOTO BY STEVE TRUESDELL
  • PHOTO BY STEVE TRUESDELL
It may have been the closest race in the night.

State Rep. Penny Hubbard (D-St. Louis) eked out a victory in the Democratic Primary's 78th District over activist Bruce Franks — besting Franks by just 84 votes under the unofficial (but complete) totals posted by the St. Louis Board of Elections Tuesday night.

There will likely be some sort of election contest. While Franks would not qualify for a recount (Missouri law allows them only in races where the margin of victory is less than one half of one percent, which Franks fell just shy of), he does have the right to contest the election.

And even before the election, Franks had raised questions about Hubbard's penchant for picking up high vote totals in absentee ballots. His lawyer, Dave Roland, has already filed suit to examine the applications and envelopes surrounding the ballots in this race — and those records could now become exhibit A in an election challenge. Penny Hubbard won 78.4 percent of absentee ballots in her face against Franks, with a total number of absentee votes more than four times her overall margin of victory. If Roland can prove even a fraction of them were unlawfully cast, the totals could look much different.

When we touched base with Roland this morning, he was already deep in calculations. He notes that three percent of all registered voters in the 78th House District cast absentee ballots in last night's primary race, "which exceeds by far the percentage of all voters casting absentee ballots in any other state legislative race on the ballot in St. Louis City."

And because absentee ballots may only be lawfully cast under narrow circumstances, the grounds for a challenge to some of those may be ripe.

"Bruce Franks won the election day vote in the 78th House District Democratic primary, but (predictably) lost the absentee ballot vote," Roland says. "If we can find 85 unlawfully-cast absentee ballots, Franks wins that election."

(Roland also notes that Rasheen Aldridge, who lost a tight race for committeeman to Rodney Hubbard, may have a similar case to make. "Rasheen Aldridge won the election day vote, but came up just 53 votes short because Rodney Hubbard captured 70.9 percent of the absentee ballot vote," he says.)

Roland says he is waiting for direction from his clients on any possible challenge to the election. We'll update this post if we hear back.

In the 80th District, things weren't nearly so tight. Attorney Peter Merideth bested Ben Murray with 60 percent of the vote to Murray's 39.5 percent, according to unofficial totals.

And Congressman William Lacy Clay Jr. appears to have easily held off a challenge from State Senator Maria Chapelle-Nadal, capturing 62 percent of the vote to her 26.5 percent, according to incomplete returns. Perennial candidate Bill Haas finished a distant third.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story gave incorrect information about when a recount is permitted in local races. They're allowed when the margin of victory is one half of one percent — not one percent, as is true of statewide races. We regret the error. Our misapplication of recount law led us to assume a recount would be permitted in Franks' race, which does not appear to be the case — but, as it has no bearing on an election challenge, it's fair to say this race is not over yet.

Also, this story has been updated to contain additional information about absentee ballots in the race.


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


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