East side of courthouse

The door on the east side of the Pike County Courthouse is the only one where people are allowed to enter. Photo by Stan Schwartz

BOWLING GREEN—The suit brought against the Pike County Clerk's office and three of the staff members was dismissed late Monday afternoon.

As a result, the story, which ran in the Wednesday's Times, did not have the dismissal information from the scheduled hearing. Below is the full story that was printed, which also now includes a statement sent to the Times office by Kristen Baker after her suit was dismissed.

County Clerk Susie Oberdalhoff said she and the other defendants were prepared to refute all the accusations made by Baker in her suit, but the hearing was canceled before it even began. The clerk's office issued the following statement after learning of the dismissal:

"The Pike County Clerk’s office is pleased to announce that late Monday night, on Aug. 31, 2020, Contestant Kristen Baker filed a dismissal of her lawsuit seeking a new election for the Aug. 4, 2020, Republican primary election for assessor.

“The Pike County Clerk’s office disputed the allegations described in Mrs. Baker’s lawsuit and was prepared for trial, which was scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. The Answer to the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Pike County Clerk’s Office, Susie Oberdahlhoff, Tracy Riffle-Foster, and Laura Stumbaugh contended that there were not irregularities with the Aug. 4, 2020 primary election of a sufficient magnitude to cast doubt on the validity of the election.

“The Pike County Clerk, staff, and election workers make every effort to conduct elections with integrity and ensure that every qualified voter’s vote is counted,” Oberdahlhoff said. “While there are challenges with every election, the Aug. 4 primary election was run fairly and the results reflected the votes cast by the citizens of Pike County.”

Lawsuit against Pike County Clerk’s office alleges voting irregularities

BOWLING GREEN—A lawsuit filed by Kristen Baker, who had been a candidate for office in the most recent primary, said a number of irregularities occurred during the election process, and she is asking for a new election to take place before the November election.

In her second amended petition, Baker alleges Pike County Clerk Susie Oberdahlhoff and two of the deputy county clerks, Laura Stumbaugh and Tracy Riffle-Foster, were handling ballots during the primary election, even though they were on those ballots as candidates.

The suite was filed for Baker at the Pike County Courthouse by her attorney, Angela B. Gabel, with ABG Law Office LLC in St. Louis.

The Pike County defendants are being represented by Travis Elliott. When reached by phone, Oberdahlhoff said she could not comment on the case under advice by counsel.

The primary had been rescheduled from April 7 to June 2 because of the pandemic and the mandatory shutdown of non-essential businesses.

According to the suit, the Pike County Courthouse was closed to the general public at 5 p.m. on the eve of the election, when it should have remained open to all the candidates. It also stated that, “several voting locations in Pike County experienced problems with paper ballots.” Problems, such as ballots being unreadable by the optical scanners, as happened in “10 of the 14 precincts in Pike County.”

The suit said the problems covered 71 percent of the ballots cast during the election, and that one optical scanner—the one at Cuivre J-L precinct—had stopped working at 11 a.m. on the day of the election, “and ballots were being placed in clear plastic bags.”

Baker’s suit alleges Oberdahlhoff and Riffle-Foster mishandled the ballots. Baker and Riffle-Foster were in a head-to-head contest for the Republican ticket to face the Democratic candidate for the office of Pike County Assessor during the November election. Unofficial results showed that Baker was defeated by 499 votes.

The suit states that poll workers were stopped at the courthouse door and asked to hand ballots directly to employees of the County Clerk’s Office, including Oberdahlhoff, and that many of the ballots were unsealed.

Results from the Pike County precincts were delayed wrote Oberdahlhoff in an ad placed in The Bowling Green Times, because Riffle-Foster had not helped with the ballots.

The suit also states “the inconsistencies in the election results for the assessor’s race are greater than the margin of victory.”

Many of the irregularities noted in the suit were witnessed by people standing outside the courthouse, it said. Baker is seeking another primary election to take place on or before Tuesday, Sept. 8.

As noted above, the suit was dismissed. Below is Baker's statement about the dismissal:

“The lawsuit against the Pike County Clerk’s office, Susie Oberdahlhoff, Tracy Riffle-Foster and Laura Stumbaugh, was brought on behalf of all of the candidates and voters who witnessed the Clerks on the ballot running their own election. While the lawsuit was brought in my name, it was a collaborative effort to fight the blatant disregard for our election laws,” Baker wrote.

“My dismissal does not mean their actions were ethical or lawful. It means that I cannot do this alone. I believe their actions of closing the courthouse to lawful observers, forcing the election judges to leave, and handling their own ballots, violate Missouri law. Voters and candidates saw this happen and we know it is wrong. My family and I just decided that this is better left to law enforcement to fix than for me,” she noted in her written statement.

“We truly hope the Clerk’s office, Susie Oberdahlhoff, Tracy Riffle-Foster and Laura Stumbaugh understand how they’ve violated the integrity of the election. Now, we expect law enforcement to pick up where we left off,” she stated.

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