Pr. William bipartisan panel will study election problems

December 10, 2012

A bipartisan commission tasked with looking into long lines and delays at the polls on Election Day is beginning to take shape.

The worst problems Nov. 6 were reported in eastern Prince William County, primarily at the River Oaks Precinct at Potomac Middle School in Dumfries. Voters there said they waited up to 41 / 2 hours, and the last vote was cast at 10:45 p.m., officials said.

The Board of County Supervisors unanimously approved a 16-member panel Tuesday to look into why lines were so long and to make recommendations. Each supervisor will appoint one person. Supervisors also will appoint one representative of the NAACP and a member of the clergy, the county Human Rights Commission and the League of Women Voters.

The task force will include two former supervisors, Democrat Hilda Barg and a to-be-named Republican, and two representatives from the major local political parties.

Most of the members of the committee will be named by supervisors Tuesday. The task force is expected to have a report and recommendations for improvements by June, officials said.

“When we get it wrong, shame on us, and we got it wrong on Election Day,” Supervisor Frank J. Principi (D-Woodbridge) has said.

Principi recommended forming the commission.

Principi says he is unsure whether a request for $350,000 for election expenses was suppressed by county staff members. The money, which would not have bought more voting machines but could have provided additional staffing, shows up in Electoral Board meeting minutes and in e-mails between county staff members and Registrar Betty Weimer.

Weimer told the board that she could not recall asking for the money but said she would look into it. Election officials say they were provided with all the funds they requested from the county.

The county’s three Electoral Board members, appointed by Prince William Circuit Court, have apologized for the delays. The board bought six machines for two new precincts this year because of redistricting but did not buy any machines for existing precincts despite projected population growth.

Fairfax County has appointed a similar panel to investigate election issues.

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