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City on a Hill: Is D.C. down for the count?
D.C.’s September 9 primary elections should have been simple. Many of the races for the D.C. City Council were uncontested, and less than 14 percent of D.C.’s registered voters cast ballots. But the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics still managed to bungle the job, and the ineptitude they demonstrated raises serious questions about whether they will be able to handle the far greater challenge of overseeing the November 4 general election.
The day of the elections, DCBOEE posted bizarre unofficial results, which showed 1,554 write-in votes in the Ward 2 race between incumbent councilman Jack Evans (D) and challenger Cary Silverman (D). The results also showed 1,542 “over votes”—which occur when the voter invalidates the vote by marking more than one candidates’ name—in 13 different D.C. races.
DCBOEE officials noticed the error only after the unofficial results had been posted. Before they released other results, they pinpointed the source of the irregularities—a defective cartridge that tallies and generates voting results from precinct 141—and reprocessed the cartridge to get the real results from that precinct. When the next set of unofficial results were released, the “over votes” were gone, and the total number of write-ins in the Ward 2 race dropped down to 14.
It’s troubling that no one caught the mistake before the erroneous results were released. The tallies were so absurd that a simple glance-over would have told election officials that something was off and would have saved a lot of confusion.
DCBOEE manually recounted precinct 141’s votes before finally certifying the election last Friday, more than two weeks after the election. The resulting report still doesn’t elucidate what exactly the defect was or how it caused the irregularities.
“I don’t know that they’ve totally found a solution yet, which is what’s strange to me,” Kimball Brace, the president of Election Data Services, a firm that specializes in elections, said.
This is not even the first time this year that DCBOEE has had problems. In February’s presidential primary, they underestimated the number of participating voters and didn’t have enough paper ballots. These failures create a serious credibility problem for DCBOEE.
Silverman, who lost to Evans, has raised questions about the integrity of DCBOEE’s internal investigation.
“Since the election … they’ve stood by the election results and said they’re accurate,” Silverman said. “That’s not an investigation, that’s a preordained result.”
Yesterday Silverman filed a petition for a full recount of the Ward 2 election. Unfortunately, this recount will cost the DCBOEE considerable time and money when they need to be devoting all their resources to making sure the November election goes smoothly.
For a city whose residents are still denied a vote in Congress, we need to do everything possible to make sure that on the rare occasion when they do have the opportunity to make their voices heard, they aren’t muffled by DCBOEE’s incompetence.
Vote early and often with Juliana at email@example.com