Local election official dies after testing positive for COVID-19 and working on Election Day

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Photo by Grace Pettit Clayton polling place.

Alexis Montgomery, Editor-in-Chief

An election judge supervisor has died after testing positive for COVID-19 and working at the polls on Election Day in St. Charles County. 

According to a St. Charles County news release, the supervisor tested positive for the virus on Oct. 30 and was advised to quarantine for 14 days. 

The news release did not state the time or official cause of death.

The supervisor “failed to follow the advice” and broke quarantine to work at the Blanchette Park Memorial Hall polling location, about three miles northeast from Lindenwood University. 

The nine other election workers at the polling place were advised to test for the virus. Officials do not believe the supervisor was in close contact with the 1,858 voters who were at the polling place on Tuesday due to the position not requiring close contact with voters. 

Kurt Bahr, director of the election authority for Saint Charles County, said the supervisor would not have had management duties.

We have the poll workers, who work by the table that process the voters and give them their ballots, are known as election judges,” Bahr said. “And then we have a second set of people known as Judge supervisors who are basically in charge for any one polling place.” 

Bahr said the duties of the judge supervisor include making sure everything runs smoothly, helping with voter registration problems, and certifying the election results at the end of the night. 

“The judge supervisor generally is further away from the public, and then the election judges are generally the ones who are engaged with most of the people and handing out the ballots,” Bahr said.

The Blanchette Park Memorial Hall polling location had 10 judges who worked 15-hour days setting up the polling location and breaking it down. Bahr said normal elections would have only six judges, but due to the high volume of the election and the need to sanitize public areas, they had extra. 

“The judge supervisor would have been in relatively close proximity to these 10 people over the course of that 15 hours,” Bahr said. 

Bahr said the exposure for voters would have been minimal, due to voters being at the polling location for an average of 15 minutes or less. Bahr said the process was quick for absentee voters in the Election Authority office. 

The voters were processed with iPad’s, given a ballot, and were able to vote in an average of 10 to fifteen minutes. Bahr said the Election Authority office processed as many voters there as most of the precincts on Election Day. 

“And then this particular polling place [Blanchette Park Memorial], the line is primarily down the hallway or outside, and there was not that long of a line inside the actual hall, where the voting occurs,” Bahr said. “And so for the voters right there, they likely had a 15 minutes or less time exposure in that precinct.”

Saint Charles County does not enforce a mask mandate, so voters were not required to wear masks at the polls. However, Bahr said the election judges were under the county mandate and were required to wear face masks or shields. 

Bahr said of the 40,000 people who came to vote absentee at the Election Authority office, only a few did not wear a mask. 

“I’m aware of maybe five or six people who did not wear a mask, and that’s of the 40,000. I talked to my people who were processing these voters every single day and they were amazed at how few people, literally a handful of people out 40,000, chose not to wear a mask,” Bahr said.

The Saint Charles County news release said anyone who was at the precinct on Tuesday should watch closely for symptoms and contact the county COVID-19 hotline with any questions at (636) 949-1899.