Special prosecutor will not seek charges after Stoddard County election investigation
POPLAR BLUFF — A special prosecutor will not seek charges against Stoddard County Clerk Cecil Weeks following an investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol into whether the April 2 municipal election was fraudulently certified.
“After looking through reports and questioning witnesses of my own, I’ve come to the conclusion that I would not be able to meet the elements necessary to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Cecil Weeks willfully and fraudulently certified that election,” said Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Kacey Proctor, who was appointed to the case.
Weeks was accused by a former deputy clerk of certifying the election after being informed two unregistered voters cast ballots in Dexter’s Ward 2. The complaint also cited an issue with absentee ballots during the election, which included a Dexter School Board race decided by three votes.
“It confirms what we knew all along,” Weeks said Thursday, “the election went off like it was supposed to.
“We knew all along everything was OK.”
The Missouri State Highway Patrol-Division of Drug and Crime Control presented a report to Proctor after a three-month investigation.
“A complaint was also sent to the Secretary of State’s office, they also conducted an investigation and came to the same conclusion,” Proctor said.
Both complaints were filed by former deputy clerk Ginger McCoy.
In an email to the Secretary of State’s Elections Division dated April 19, McCoy alleges that Dexter Ward 2 “had two more ballots then signatures in the poll pad. Two people signed what we call a precinct roster that were not registered in Stoddard County.”
Chrissy Peters, director of elections with the Secretary of State, wrote McCoy in a letter dated May 2 that the office reviewed the complaint.
“We are dismissing the complaint without further action,” Peters wrote.
McCoy also filed suit in May against Stoddard County and Weeks for wrongfully terminating her for questioning irregularities in the election. A charge of discrimination was filed in May by McCoy with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In it, she alleges sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.
On Wednesday, the civil case was certified to the state Supreme Court for appointment of special judge after McCoy’s lawyer, Laura Clubb, filed a motion for change of judge.
McCoy was fired April 8 from the clerk’s office, where she had worked for about 13 years.
In her original complaint filed with the Stoddard County Sheriff’s Department and later in a civil suit, McCoy alleges she noticed the discrepancy in comparing signatures to ballot counts and reported it to Weeks on April 3, the day after the election.
McCoy said she also contacted the election judges to ask about the signatures.
“One election judge stated she just couldn’t remember if these voters voted or not,” McCoy said. “I contacted another one, and she said she just wasn’t sure.
“Then, we started talking about them, and she couldn’t even get the names right and the gender of the voters.”
An affidavit sent to the Secretary of State’s office dated April 19, is signed by four election judges for Dexter Ward 2, Carol Beam, Brenda Dowdy, Judy Gregory and Paula Smith. It states that during election day “some people came in to vote that had a change of name, a change of address, ect. We had each of those people fill out a form showing the changes that needed to be made and two judges signed the forms.”
Of the names or situations the judges recall, one voted under their maiden name while another had moved down a few houses on the same street. Three others did not vote, including a man who was registered to vote in Butler County and a woman still registered in New Madrid County.
“There were others but we can’t recall them,” the affidavit states. “We can assure you that NO ONE voted unless they were on the iPad.”
The judges noted in the affidavit that after the polls closed the total number of votes on the iPad equaled the total votes on the voting machine.
Proctor said the two voters not registered in Stoddard County were interviewed.
“They stated that they did not vote during the election,” Proctor said. “They did show up to vote and the election judges turned them away.”
McCoy also alleged an issue with absentee ballots in her complaint.
On April 3, she said, Stoddard County Assessor Dan Creg brought three ballots from the county’s drop box, saying his office received a call from a resident who attempted to put an assessment sheet into the drop box on April 2, but something was “jamming it.”
“When they went out there to check it, three ballots were jamming the ballot box,” McCoy said. “Mr. Weeks had his clerks stamp it April 3 and didn’t look into it to see when the ballots were dropped off.”
Proctor said it was determined that those ballots, “as far as I could tell, were turned in after the election date” and also turned in to another office’s box so they were not counted.
Proctor noted that state statutes require the county clerk to certify the election within two weeks of the election date.
“It’s not like he had a choice,” Proctor said. “He had to certify the election. After that, the results can be contested. That wasn’t done.”
For local elections, a recount can be requested if the margin is 1% or less, according to the Secretary of State.
Among the items on the April 2 ballot was an election for two seats on the Dexter R-XI Board of Education. Incumbent Herman Morse won the second seat with 932 votes, beating out challenger Ronald Glaus II, who had 929 votes.
“Ultimately, there is a mechanism in the Missouri state statutes to contest an election and demand a recount and/or contest the results of an election,” Proctor said. “The loser of a given election could file a petition in the circuit court to contest that election.
“That did not happen in this case. That’s also telling.”
Under Missouri law, a Class one election offense is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or fine up to $10,000. Among the 26 offenses includes “procuring any person to vote knowing they are not lawfully entitled to vote or knowingly procuring an illegal vote to be cast at any election;” an election judge “knowingly placing or attempting to place or permitting any ballot … to be placed in a ballot box at any election unless the ballot is offered by a qualified voter as provided by law;” knowingly “altering, defacing, damaging, destroying or concealing any ballot after it has been voted…” and, knowingly making an incorrect account of any election.”
Proctor agreed to be the special prosecutor in the case after Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver filed a motion seeking one because, as he wrote in his motion, “there exists an appearance of a conflict of interest and (Oliver) is unable to serve.”
Said Proctor, “I take matters involving elections very seriously. It’s the linchpin of our democracy. In this case it’s clear that I would not be able to prove without a reasonable doubt Cecil Weeks is guilty of a crime.”
Michelle Friedrich provided information for this story.