St. Louis election board member resigns position

Thursday, January 10, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- A Republican member of the city's election board has resigned, dealing a setback to a body charged with reversing a history of trouble at the polls.

Judy Zakibe, nominated by Democratic Gov. Bob Holden, said Wednesday she was leaving because her nomination was opposed by other Republicans in the city. Her critics, whom she said were local party committee members, were prepared to accuse her of not being Republican enough because she works in a licensing fee office run by a Democrat.

"I've always been a strong Republican, and there are two or three people in this city who don't like me, and they're starting these vicious rumors," Zakibe said. "Anybody who's been around St. Louis knows I'm probably the strongest Republican in this town."

She declined to name her critics because "I'm not going to stoop to their level," she said. "I'm just sorry for the city because I was doing a good job ... There are a lot of changes going on in the city."

The board's Republican elections director, Gary Stoff, said Zakibe's resignation would slow down efforts to improve the city's voting system and its image.

2000 election problems

In November 2000, a judge ordered the city's polls to remain open past the closing deadline, a decision that was later reversed. Republican Sen. Kit Bond accused Democrats of conspiring to break the law by trying to extend voting hours to encourage ineligible voters to cast ballots. Under close scrutiny, local elections since then have gone considerably smoother.

Last March, Republican elections director Kevin Coan was arrested and charged with attempting to solicit a 14-year-old girl for sex over the Internet. The girl did not exist and was part of a sting conducted by the Alton, Ill., police.

Michael Chance, a committeeman who was the GOP nominee for mayor last year, said he has never heard another member question Zakibe's credentials as a Republican. He said the opposition to her nomination was largely based on principle: She was not among the names recommended to Holden by the city's Republican central committee.

"This time hopefully the governor will actually take some heed to our recommendation," Chance said.

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