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Thursday, October 30, 2008

SIKESTON - When Tuesday's election rolls around will Missouri polling places be prepared?

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan believes they will be.

"We have been working very closely with local election officials to make sure they have the resources they need to run a successful, smooth election," said Carnahan in a telephone interview.

While the Secretary of State acknowledged there are about 340,000 new names this year on the state's voter registration role, she also pointed to efforts to determine there are no duplicates.

"For the first time we have a statewide voter registration list," she said. The list is designed to ensure that voters who may have moved from one county in the state to another county are not listed on both counties' voter roles. Carnahan said the list uncovered some 140,000 duplications or names of voters who are deceased.

"This is the cleanest list in our state's history," said Carnahan.

Another effort through the Secretary of State's office was to provide money and training materials to assist county clerks as they recruit poll workers. According to Carnahan the average age of a state's poll workers is 72 and an effort is under way to interest younger people to serve.

"The No. 1 best investment we can make is to ensure we have good, well-trained people in the polls on Election Day," she said.

As part of this effort, there is a push to bring in college and even qualified high-school students into the process, she said. The combination of the experienced poll workers and the younger people becoming involved was described by Carnahan as "a great thing for our Democracy."

The Secretary of State's office is forecasting some 76 percent of Missourians will cast ballots on Tuesday. While this is not the greatest percent (77 percent of Missourians cast ballots in 1992), it will be a record number of registered voters - 4.2 million.

"One encouraging sign is lot are younger people - 150,000 18 to 24 years olds have signed up to vote. I think that is encouraging. Election officials know if you get started voting at a young age then you vote for life," she said.

With the record number of voters, Carnahan urged voters to review the issues and candidates prior to going into the voting booth.

The Secretary of State's office has created a resource for voters at govotemissouri.com. The Web site includes information about what voters are required to bring to the polls such as identification (either a photo ID such as a driver's license or nonphoto identification such as a government document or paycheck stub); poll locations and even sample ballots.

"Because turnout is expected to be big that could mean long lines," said Carnahan. "The ballot is long including five statewide initiatives so it takes some time."

Being informed on the candidates and issues will make the process quicker, she said. Also she pointed out there is no longer the straight-party ticket option, used by some 40 percent of voters in 2004, so those casting ballots will need to mark each candidate individually, adding to the time spent in the voting booth.

Carnahan offered one last recommendation to voters for Tuesday: "It takes more 20,000 people to make elections run statewide and it is a long day. Say thanks to the poll workers for what they are doing."

Notice a problem?

Should individuals note a problem at the polls there are several ways to voice their concerns.

* The county clerk can be contacted in the county where the voter is casting a ballot.

* The Secretary of State's office can be contacted at 1-800-now-vote.

*The United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Missouri has established a hotline for handling election fraud and voting rights calls. That number is 314-539-7733, or 573-331-0503 in Southeast Missouri.