Every DC voter to get absentee ballot in mail? Elections board plans changes for November

Every voter in D.C. will get their ballot for the general election in the mail. It’s one of the changes the Board of Elections plans to make after “lessons learned” in what Mayor Muriel Bowser called its failed execution of the primary.

Instead of pulling back from the mail-in ballots that had overwhelmed the system, the Board of Elections plans to go all in, with a plan to increase its IT staff and resources to be able to process an influx in absentee ballots in November.

In a five-page after-action report detailing what went wrong in the June 2 primary, the board outlined next steps to prevent a repeat experience for more than 34,000 in-person voters who were met with long lines at the polls. Many reported that they were forced to vote in person after they did not receive the absentee ballot they had requested.

“The technology systems we used to process the over 92,000 absentee requests had previously processed less than one-quarter of the volume of requests received for the June election. Our Election Management Voter Registration System, ‘Integrity,’ was stretched beyond its previous capacity as well,” the board said in the report.

The board had urged voters to request mail-in ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic. D.C. officials also encouraged residents to go earlier to vote centers.

“The extremely heavy Election Day voter turnout, confusion about the status of mailed and returned absentee ballots, and COVID-19 procedures drove the excessively long lines voters unfortunately experienced on June 2, 2020,” according to the report.

It notes that nothing will change for the November election unless it has assistance from D.C.

The board plans to increase poll workers; some of those workers will staff the 40 voting locations that will open a week before Election Day.

Along with increasing messaging to voters, the board suggests it should both find areas where more vote centers may be needed, and “identify a workable solution for the Board’s mobile app capable of interacting with all mobile platforms.”

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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