- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - One of St. Louis County’s two election directors has been suspended and the other is mulling retirement in the wake of a mistake that resulted in ballot shortages at dozens of precincts.

Republican elections director Gary Fuhr said in an interview Wednesday that he was leaning toward retirement, even though the St. Louis County Elections Commission was urging him to reconsider. Meanwhile, the commission on Tuesday suspended Democratic elections director Eric Fey for two weeks. The commission also suspended elections coordinator Laura Goebel for one week. Both are suspended without pay.

A message seeking comment from Fey was not returned. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I respect the board’s decision.”

The suspensions were handed out during a closed meeting Tuesday, the same meeting where Fuhr told commissioners of his plan to step down.

Nearly 8 percent of all St. Louis County precincts ran out of ballots on April 5, and some voters were turned away. Fey has said shortages occurred in 63 precincts that required ballots for multiple jurisdictions such as school board and municipal government elections.

Those polling places require two different styles of ballots. Somehow, the number of ballots needed for each style was reversed. The result was too many ballots in some styles, too few in others.

Republican elections board commissioner John Maupin told the Post-Dispatch that the board will examine whether four municipal races were impacted by the shortage, after losing candidates expressed concern. Those races were for mayor of Berkeley, a city council seat in Overland, and aldermanic races in Town and Country and Sunset Hills.

The St. Louis County Council, Missouri Secretary of State’s office and state lawmakers also have all launched investigations into the ballot shortage.

Missouri’s governor appoints members of the St. Louis County Election Board, and the board selects two directors, one from each party. Fuhr was chosen for the Republican position 3 1/2 years ago.

Fuhr, 68, is a former police officer, FBI agent and state representative. He said he has been contemplating retirement anyway, but he takes responsibility for the ballot mistake and is leaning toward stepping aside soon.

“In my position as director, anything that goes wrong is part of my responsibility,” Fuhr said. “It goes along with the job. But the timing is right. I was going to go sometime between now and the end of the year. I think the timing is right now to make the move.”

The suspensions weren’t enough punishment as far as one lawmaker was concerned. Republican state Rep. Shamed Dogan of Ballwin, in a statement, called on Gov. Jay Nixon to replace the county election commissioners “who failed to hold anyone accountable through either resignation or termination.”

Dogan said the House Task Force on Election Procedures and Accountability will continue to investigate. He is vice chairman of the task force.

Maupin told the Post-Dispatch that a mistake was made, but it “was certainly not malicious, it was just a mistake.”

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