Election officials, technicians reviewing reported computer problems in Loudoun

In the days since Tuesday’s general election, Loudoun County election officers and technicians continued to look into a computer networking problem that plagued more than a dozen laptops at precincts across the county.

Several precincts began reporting problems with their computerized “poll books” shortly before voting sites opened at 6 a.m. Tuesday. The poll books were functioning individually, Loudoun General Registrar Judy Brown said, but were not networked together, resulting in longer waits to check in at some precincts.

The issue did not affect the voting results, Brown said.

Initial reports said that about 25 precincts had been affected, a number that later rose to about half of the county’s 85 precincts. After the election, when technicians looked more closely at the issue, Brown said, the problem was narrowed down to 16 computers.

“It was fewer than we thought, so that was good to know,” she said Wednesday.

Some eastern Loudoun precincts experienced minor delays during the morning and lunchtime rush periods, according to election officials, but all precincts had at least one working computer at all times, and the problem did not seem to cause any major headaches.

At Claude Moore Recreation Center in Sterling, Dave Johnson, assistant  election chief, said Tuesday morning that just one of three computers at the precinct was working. He gestured toward a line a half-dozen voters waiting to cast ballots.

“It’s been slowing us down a bit,” he said. “We wouldn’t have people standing in line at all otherwise.”

The county had an overall voter turnout of about 42 percent, which also helped ensure there were never particularly long lines at precincts, Brown said.

On Tuesday afternoon, technicians fanned out to the affected precincts and were able to fix most of the poll books before the evening rush, Brown said.

“We’re still a little puzzled as to what exactly what was going on, so we are looking into it further,” she said Wednesday. “We were able to get things up and running in order to finish the election, but there was still a problem, and we’ll make sure it gets addressed.”

The computer network issue was the only problem reported by county election officials, Brown said.

“But we’re not just going to forget about it, now that the election’s over with,” she said. “We will be finding out exactly what went wrong and why, to ensure that it won’t be happening again the next time.”

Caitlin Gibson is a local news and features writer for The Washington Post.
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