D.C. Board of Elections Yet to Release Any Results

By David Nakamura and Elissa Silverman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 4, 2008; 10:38 PM

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics had not released any election results as of 10 p.m., two hours after polls closed in the District.

At board headquarters in Judiciary Square, officials had fed an initial batch of cartridges into machines to be tabulated at about 9:30 p.m., said D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who was on the scene. A printout of those partial results was made, Cheh added, but they were not released to the public.

Cheh speculated that the board was trying to double-check results after the debacle in the September primary elections, when thousands of phantom write-in votes were tabulated. Officials blamed a faulty cartridge from a single voting precinct for the problem.

Though an internal investigation could not confirm why the malfunction occurred, a panel concluded that workers were reading computer memory card cartridges too quickly. The panel also chided the board for releasing the results without reviewing them.

"I was told by the board [that] out of caution they're vetting it and vetting it and vetting it," Cheh said. "I've told them it's turning out to be an embarrassment. Every jurisdiction across the country is releasing results."

Cheh said she was told by the board that results were imminent. Board spokesman Daniel Murphy said, "They are checking and rechecking everything. We want to make sure what we're putting out is accurate and correct."

Murphy said officials are loading the cartridges with great care.

"At this point, we are trying to be slow and deliberate," he said.

A dozen people, including candidates for the State Board of Education and for Advisory Neighborhood Commission positions, sat around waiting. Tempers flared when officials refused to allow about a dozen ballot observers to watch the tabulating process at the same time, citing a lack of space. Instead, they were rotated through the room.

"This is ridiculous," said Shelore C. Williams, a Ward 1 school board candidate. "Obama will be president by the time we get our results."

Cheh said: "There are two possible explanations. One, they're finding anomalies or, two, they're just so cautious, they're checking 80 times."

Nikita Stewart and Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.

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