(The Center Square) – The City of St. Louis will spend approximately $2 million in federal pandemic recovery funds on its elections.
City officials announced on Tuesday a plan to expand ballot access for its voters by upgrading its election technology. The investment will help keep elections secure while giving voters expanded opportunity to cast ballots at any precinct within the city limits, according to a media release.
“As voting rights and our democracy face unprecedented attacks, I am proud of how the City of St. Louis made it easier for residents to make their voice heard at the polls,” St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said in a statement announcing the plan on National Voter Registration Day. “Government works best when we work together. My administration collaborated with the Board of Aldermen and Board of Election Commissioners to make this much-needed investment to upgrade our technology.”
The St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners utilizes four “No Excuse Needed Absentee Polling Places,” according to city information. The process allows voters an in-person absentee option for two weeks before each election. No excuse is needed for voting absentee and voters don’t need to apply for a ballot.
The Board of Election Commissioners recently started operating 12 “vote centers” throughout the city. A registered city voter can cast their ballot at any of the 12 locations regardless of the precinct where they reside.
“This system represents a year’s long effort on behalf of the Board of Election Commissioners to find the right system for city voters, one that gives the voter the ability to vote anywhere regardless of voter’s assigned precinct,” Board Republican Director Gary Stoff said in a statement.
The board also is addressing polling locations in the city not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It also opened an online survey to get feedback on how it can better communicate through email, Instagram, Tiktok and other social media platforms or methods.
“Now, the goal of the Election Board is to make sure polling places are physically accessible for all voters and to educate St. Louisans on their voting options prior to the August 24, 2024, primary election,” Board Democratic Director Ben Borgmeyer said in a statement.
The American Rescue Plan Act, approved by Congress in 2021, allocated $1.9 trillion in federal aid to assist those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. St. Louis received approximately $510 million in ARPA funds, according to city information. The city has programmed approximately $229 million in funds and spent $85 million. The city organized its appropriation of ARPA-funded projects in five categories: infrastructure ($1.6 million), negative economic impacts ($286 million), premium pay ($2.5 million), public health ($40.7 million), revenue replacement ($176.7 million) and services to disproportionately impacted communities ($3.1 million).