- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A half-hour after polls closed Tuesday, the Missouri Court of Appeals overturned a judge’s ruling and ordered some St. Louis County polling places to remain open until 9 p.m. due to ballot shortages for municipal elections.

The court ruling came about 7:30 p.m., about 30 minutes after polls closed. The ruling applied only to the more than 60 polling places that lacked enough ballots.

County officials learned of the shortage soon after polls opened. Circuit Judge Maura McShane ruled Tuesday afternoon that polls would not remain open past 7 p.m.

The ballot shortage angered elected officials. The Board of Elections spent the day scrambling to deliver ballots to 63 polling places affected.

Democratic elections director Eric Fey said problems occurred in polling places requiring ballots for multiple jurisdictions such as school board and municipal government elections. Those polling places require two different styles of ballots.

But somehow, Fey said, the number of ballots needed for each style was reversed. The result was that some of the ballot styles had too many printings, and some too few.

“Somehow we didn’t catch it in our normal proofing process,” Fey said. “We’re going to conduct an extensive audit to find out where we went wrong. We’re not exactly sure.”

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, said that ensuring free, fair and effective elections “is one of government’s most important and fundamental responsibilities.”

“What is occurring in St. Louis County is inexcusable,” Nixon said in a statement. “The St. Louis County Board of Elections, and particularly its two directors, must rectify these mistakes, explain how they occurred, and be held accountable for this unacceptable failure.”

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, also a Democrat, said in a statement that his office was launching an immediate review. “The fact that they ran out of ballots today is unacceptable,” Kander said.

County Executive Steve Stenger, a Democrat, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he was “boiling” after learning of the irregularities soon after polling opened.

“Some heads are going to have to roll on this one,” Stenger told the newspaper.

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