The District’s Nov. 4 general election was marred by absent poll workers, outdated equipment and uneven access for disabled voters, the D.C. auditor’s office concludes in a new report that recommends replacing voting machines and improving worker training.
At one polling place in November, people were asked to show identification to vote — which is not required by D.C. law — and some voters were turned away, according to the report.
The audit came after a series of lapses from the D.C. Board of Elections in recent years — most recently, a technical breakdown that delayed the counting of votes for hours during the April 1 primary last year and the printing of a voter guide bearing an upside-down D.C. flag ahead of the general election.
D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) ordered the audit, which involved visits to a majority of the city’s 143 polling places on Election Day. McDuffie has been sharply critical of management at the elections board.
“I don’t have full confidence in the board right now, given the mistakes that have been made,” he said in October.
McDuffie said in a statement Monday that the report “underscores persistent problems with BOE’s ability to conduct elections in the District of Columbia.” He added that he has “already committed to identify funding to fully supply polling locations with all of the necessary materials” and is “also reviewing additional measures that would enable BOE to seamlessly administer future elections.”
Denise Tolliver, a board spokeswoman, said the auditors did not request a formal response from the board. But she said the report is under review.
“We are looking at all of their recommendations, and it’s an evolving process,” she said. Tolliver said the board aims to train all poll workers thoroughly and to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The audit found that 23 of 89 precincts visited did not have the minimum number of poll workers designated in city election procedures — because of the failure of 168 workers to come to work as scheduled. To address the no-shows, precinct captains in some cases shifted workers to positions they were not trained for.
At 37 of the 89 precincts inspected, the polling places were not fully accessible to the disabled. The issues included missing or inoperable doorbells to alert poll workers that a wheelchair-bound voter needed assistance, as well as a lack of accessible parking spaces and entrances.
At the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center polling place, auditors noted that voters had to show identification and pass through a security cordon to vote. Several voters who did not have IDs were turned away, the report said.
The auditors documented equipment problems at 57 of the 89 precincts they visited, affecting a wide range of the District’s Election Day technology — including paper ballot readers, electronic poll books and touch-screen voting machines.
But the auditors concluded that the Board of Elections had “adequate contingency plans” in place to remedy those malfunctions on Election Day. And their conclusion that voting equipment should be replaced echoes the recommendation of the board, which raised eyebrows last year when it suggested that the current equipment — purchased ahead of the 2010 elections — was already outdated.
“Given the number of technical issues resulting from the malfunction of [the old equipment], we strongly support the BOE’s request for replacement systems,” the report reads. “We suggest that the BOE be given the opportunity and resources to purchase updated hardware and software. New equipment will minimize equipment breakdowns and speed up the tabulation process.”