MAPLEWOOD, MO (KPLR) – St. Louis County election officials ordered 30,000 extra blank ballots on Election Day Nov. 4 and had them flown to St. Louis from a firm in the state of Kansas. The cost to taxpayers was $4,675 including $2,875 for the charter flight.
A shortage of paper ballots prompted the decision.
57 county precincts ran low on paper ballots that day according to Election Board Director Rita Heard Days. She 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. On Election Day the county printed more than 5800 optical scan paper ballots when the demand for paper ballots proved larger than they expected.
The staff had arranged to print paper ballots for 15 percent of registered voters at each precinct. But heavy demand from voters for paper ballots combined with the problem formula left some polling places short on ballots well before noon.
"It was quite embarrassing that we ran out of paper ballots," said Board Chairman Richard Kellett, a Democrat who has served on the Election Board since 2009. He said it had never happened before and he does not want it to happen again. Other Commissioners agreed with him.
"We're talking about a minute amount of money if you ordered another ten thousand," said Kellett. Each printed ballot costs 27 cents each.
Days insisted the county had sufficient blank ballot paper stock available Nov. 4 to meet the voters' demand for paper ballots and did not use any of the ballots that were flown to St. Louis. "One of the assistant directors thought we might be running low so just in case we had them flown in," she said. The blank ballots can be used during future elections.