D.C. Council Member Scolds Elections Chief for Primary Voting Problems

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 15, 2008 11:53 AM

About 10,000 people, who could not be found on the voter rolls or were not members of a party, cast special ballots in the District's presidential primary Tuesday, a 900 percent increase over the last presidential primary in 2004, the executive director of the D.C. elections board testified today.

The unusually high turnout of those voters led to Tuesday's controversial ballot shortage that drew complaints from voters and elected officials. The special, or provisional, ballots have not been included in the candidates' totals, but instead have been set aside for review.

Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) won 75 percent of the vote in the District's Democratic primary, sweeping all 142 precincts and beating rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) 3 to 1. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) won the city's Republican primary, receiving 3,967 in the 142 precincts; former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee garnered 984votes.

D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) called a public roundtable this morning to see what went wrong. Alice P. Miller, executive director of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, said her staff was overwhelmed by the unanticipated turnout.

Under questioning, Miller also acknowledged that some poll workers refused to use the electronic touch-screen machines, contributing to the ballot shortage.

"Some of our workers don't like the electronic machines," she said. "Some of them tried to hide them."

Schwartz said those workers should be fired, and Miller responded that they will not be asked to return.

Still, Miller commended her staff, many of who worked an average of 12 to 18 hours daily for three days in a row. Schwartz told Miller to temper her praise, considering the reported problems.

"I got to tell you when you start patting yourself on the back . . . I don't like that, because there remain problems and it's your job," Schwartz said.

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