WASHINGTON — The long lines at the polls on Election Day were the result of a “perfect storm” of problems, according to the chair of Prince William County’s election task force.
Jim Young told the Board of Supervisors this week that the task force found “no ill will or grand conspiracies in the problems arising at the polls.”
Although polls closed at 7 p.m. in November, the last voter in Prince William County did not sign-in until 10:45 p.m. That means the wait was at least three hours and 45 minutes. Of the 77 precincts in the county, only 35 signed-in their last voter at or before 7:30 p.m.
Two of the four largest precincts in the county, Alvey and River Oaks, closed after 9:30 p.m. Each has more than 5,000 registered voters.
The final check-in time is the only hard data the task force could evaluate because wait times are not tracked throughout the day.
Using that information and public testimony, the task force found that high voter turnout, obsolete voting equipment, lots of voters with new addresses, large precincts and problems checking-in contributed to the long lines.
On the plus side, the task force says that electronic sign-in books prevented things from getting even worse. Among the task force’s recommendations:
Split precincts with more than 4,000 registered voters
Get new polling equipment in place by the 2015 election, rather than by 2016 as currently planned
Use the total number of registered voters to determine how many voting machines and other resources are required at each precinct rather than the number of “active voters” who have cast a ballot in the last two years
Make sure there is enough parking and space inside all polling places, which may require closing schools that are used as polling places on Election Day
Have backup equipment and personnel in case there are problems
The Board of Supervisors should support a bill in the General Assembly allowing no-excuse absentee voting similar to the early voting allowed in Maryland and D.C.
Provide more proactive voter outreach and education