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D.C., Prince George’s County polling sites disrupted by shortage of ballots, faulty equipment

November 8, 2018

Some voters in the District and Prince George’s County waited hours to vote Tuesday as officials who had underestimated voter turnout scrambled to replace ballots and broken equipment.

Hundreds of voters at Brandywine Elementary School in Prince George’s County waited more than three hours for ballots Tuesday night after the precinct had run out, and others at the Upper Marlboro Community Center waited more than two hours for more ballots, according to voters’ social media posts.

The nonprofit group Pizza to the Polls told The Washington Times that it donated 328 pizzas to voters waiting in line in Maryland and the District. Co-founder Scott Duncombe said he’s happy to keep voters fed, but is “bummed we have to exist.”

Prince George’s County’s elections Administrator Alisha Alexander told WUSA-TV that the ballot delivery took so long because “when we realized it was an issue, it was in the middle of rush hour.”

Ms. Alexander added that ballot supplies were based on 2016 voter turnout. But in an interview with WTOP Radio, she said the county’s voter turnout this year was down about 10 percent from the 2016 election.

The Times could not resolve the discrepancy. Neither Ms. Alexander nor the Maryland State Board of Elections returned multiple phone calls seeking comment.

D.C. voters at Eastern Market’s North Hall also faced long waits, with the line zigzagging inside the hall and extending out the doors approaching North Carolina Avenue.

“The only time I can remember lines is when Obama got elected,” said Kathleen Brown, 59, adding that she has cast her ballot at Eastern Market for 30 years.

The culprit was the precinct’s one ballot box machine, which jammed. D.C. Board of Elections spokeswoman Rachel Coll said the precinct has always had only one machine, but board records show this is the first year that North Hall has served voters in two precincts, 88 and 89.

“We’re working with the resources we have,” Ms. Coll said Wednesday. “We don’t have an infinite number of machines or an infinite budget.”

The board delivered a second machine at 1 p.m., but the first jammed again. By 3 p.m., The Times witnessed one worker opening the machine to submit ballots by hand. At around 4 p.m. the board dropped off a third machine.

Final D.C. voting results weren’t reported until Wednesday morning due to precinct No. 113 failing to digitally transfer its results to the board, as first reported by DCist.

“By the time we realized that precinct hadn’t modemed the results, as opposed to a late return, it was too late to get into the church,” Ms. Coll told The Times.

This year, 219,101 D.C. residents, or about 44 percent of the city’s registered voters, cast ballots in the general election. That’s double the June primary turnout, but below 2016′s 65 percent voter turnout.

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