Prince George's elections chief explains slow primary vote tally

By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 16, 2010

Prince George's residents had to wait until almost 5 a.m. Wednesday to get the unofficial tallies in Tuesday's primaries. County elections chief Alisha L. Alexander said it was a matter of good intentions gone awry.

She said the office will revamp its plans for the Nov. 2 general election after Tuesday's slow vote count, which tallied about 50 percent of the ballots by 2 a.m. It wasn't a matter of turnout. Fewer voters -- about 20 percent -- cast ballots Tuesday than in the 2006 primary, when more than 25 percent turned out.

Alexander said she had decided to encourage election judges at larger precincts to drive their data cards to the headquarters in Upper Marlboro rather than try to send results by computer modem. About 150 precincts brought their data cards to the headquarters, where the staff was able to upload about three precincts an hour, starting about 8 p.m.

"We had a steady stream of results, but it was slow," Alexander said.

She said she had made the change because of the large numbers of candidates and concerns that there might be very close races whose results would be challenged.

In November, modems will be used across the county, and after the data are transmitted, election judges will drive the material to election board headquarters, she said.

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