Neighborhood early-voting sites open in District

By Mike DeBonis and Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 5, 2010

Thousands of District voters have already cast early ballots in this year's primaries, as two well-financed mayoral campaigns have begun scouring the city for votes.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and his chief rival, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), crisscrossed the District on Saturday, attending community events and visiting the city's four satellite early-voting sites.

Polls have been open at the downtown headquarters of the Board of Elections and Ethics since Monday; more than 3,400 votes were cast there through Friday. But Saturday represented the first time that District voters could cast early ballots in their neighborhoods -- at Chevy Chase Community Center in Ward 3, Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Ward 5, Hine Junior High School in Ward 6, and the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center in Ward 8.

On Saturday, more than 3,300 voters showed up to vote. An additional 4,000 have requested mail ballots.

All early-voting sites are closed Sunday, but will reopen for the Monday holiday and remain open through Sept. 11. The hours are 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The One Judiciary Square site will also be open on Monday, Sept. 13 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Saturday's debut was a test of a networked electronic poll-book system that updates almost instantaneously to prevent voters from casting multiple ballots. The elections board did not report any problems with the technology, but polling was marred by an allegation of vote-buying.

A Gray campaign poll watcher working at the Turkey Thicket recreation center said she questioned a young Fenty supporter who told her he was paid $100 to vote.

The man's name and his picture were given to election officials, who said they would refer the matter to federal prosecutors if an initial investigation indicated it was warranted. The Fenty campaign had no comment on the allegation.

In another incident, a voter said that he had been able to cast a Democratic ballot even though he was a registered Republican. David E. Hrdy said a poll worker at Hine mistakenly selected a Democratic ballot on the electronic voting machines. He voted the ballot, selecting Fenty.

Fenty had petitioned the election board last month to allow independent voters to cast primary ballots; the board did not approve the request. "If they let this happen, they might as well allow a same-day [party] switch," said Hrdy, a Lincoln Park resident who said that he was not aware that he was given a real ballot.

Board spokeswoman Alysoun McLaughlin confirmed that Hrdy had checked in as a Republican, but could not confirm that he had voted a Democratic ballot until the Hine early-voting polls close on Sept. 11.

The leading campaigns cited each other for crossing electioneering lines, although McLaughlin said there was no wrongdoing on either side.

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