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Elections officials: Scattered problems at polling places

Voters are casting their ballots on Nov. 8, 2016. (AP/WTOP)

WASHINGTON — Area elections officials say there have been scattered problems at polling places.

In Fairfax County, some poll workers were inappropriately asking voters for driver’s licenses instead of the other forms of identification they presented.

Fairfax County General Registrar Cameron Sasnett said poll workers were reminded that alternate forms of ID are accepted at polling places in Virginia.

Despite the misunderstanding, no voters were turned away, Sasnett said.

As of 2 p.m., about 300,000 people had voted in Fairfax County — about 45 percent of active registered voters. About 125,000 in the county had also cast absentee ballots — about another 20 percent. In 2008, statewide turnout in Virginia was 74.5 percent.

Sasnett said the confusion could be because of the new electronic poll pads being used that scan driver’s licenses to look up voters more quickly.

He said he knows at least two polling places where the problem occurred.

Maryland voters also encountered some problems.

Around 2:45 p.m., there were reports of Maryland voters receiving ballots that have already been marked.

Linda Lamone, Maryland’s elections administrator, said Tuesday afternoon, that they received similar reports during the primary and called it “human error.”

Lamone said voters sometimes make a mistake on the ballot and hand it back to poll workers, who are supposed to label it as “spoiled.” But because some workers are so busy, they aren’t labeling them and somehow give a used ballot to another voter.

Also in Maryland, a listener who wanted to vote at Adelphi Elementary School in Prince George’s County said he left the polling place frustrated because it was his understanding that the ballot scanner machine was not working and that he would be unable to vote.

However, precinct officials told WTOP that the scanner was indeed working, but the problem was that the polling place had the wrong page 2 of the ballot and needed to wait 15 minutes for the correct sheet to be delivered.

Officials are urging those who left without voting to go back and cast their ballot, although there is a one-hour wait.

Getting to the polls just in time

Virginia Railway Express will operate its longest trains to help get you home so you can vote.

Here is what VRE has planned for its lines:

Fredericksburg Line

  • Fredericksburg #315 (Departs Union Station at 6:40 p.m.) – 5 cars

Manassas Line

  • Manassas #335 (Departs Union Station at 6:10 p.m.) – 6 cars
  • Manassas #337 (Departs Union Station at 6:50 p.m.) – 7 cars

No changes are planned for Maryland’s MARC trains.

Safeguarding your vote

If you are in line by 7 p.m. in Virginia or 8 p.m. in Maryland or D.C., you have the right to vote. If someone tells you, while you are in line, that you cannot vote, that is wrong. Call the Department of Justice at 1-800-253-3931 or email voting.section@usdoj.gov to report it.

Federal election monitors have been dispatched to Fairfax and Prince William counties to monitor any complaints or disruptions that would prevent Virginia voters form participating, including intimidation, the Justice Department announced. Hundreds of monitors are on the ground in 65 other jurisdictions spread across 27 other states Tuesday.

The political parties will have representatives at the polls and local election officials and procedures will help ensure the integrity of the election, said John Fortier, director of the Democracy Project for the Bipartisan Policy Center.

“We should be leery of claims that it is widely rigged or there is a big influence from the outside. There are many people dedicated with many good procedures in place to try and make this election fair,” Fortier said.

“We are deploying nearly 4,000 election officers in Fairfax County. That’s the most we ever had,” said Fairfax County Registrar Cameron Sasnett.

Electronic poll pads

Voters in Fairfax County may be surprised to find electronic poll pads checking their identifications at polling locations.

According to Fairfax County Director of Public Affairs Tony Castrille, all 243 polling locations in the county are equipped with the electronic pads.

He said it’s a much more efficient way to confirm a voter’s identification than using the previous large hard copy books.

Castrille also said that the pads are not connected to the internet, but instead are pre-loaded with voter registration data so that poll workers can just scan the bar code on ID’s to access a voter’s information and confirm.

If the pads were to malfunction, polling places can use the hard copy registration books as backup, Castrille said.

Local issues at stake

Voters in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have much more to decide than who will move into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Northwest.

Marylanders will decide who will succeed Barbara Mikulski in the U.S. Senate — the trailblazer is retiring after decades of public service. Prince George’s County voters will decide whether to expand the County Council and fund its portion of the proposed Purple Line.

D.C. voters will select at-large council members and will weigh in on whether the District should push to become a state.

In Fairfax County, voters will decide whether to add a 4 percent meals tax on restaurant and prepared foods plus beverages.

Voters across Northern Virginia will also decide whether freshman lawmaker Barbara Comstock will serve a second term in Congress or whether her Democratic challenger LuAnn Bennett will represent the 10th District — what has turned into one of the most hotly contested races in the nation.

The road to Election Day

Virginia remains in play for both presidential candidates. Both the Trump and Clinton campaigns began buying advertising again in the expensive D.C. media market in recent weeks as Clinton’s lead over Trump has narrowed in Virginia. Both had largely pulled out of the region because polls showed Clinton had locked up support in the Old Dominion.

Two Virginia polls released in the past week show Clinton slightly ahead of Trump. In mid-October she commanded double digit leads over Trump.

Trump stumped in Leesburg early Monday morning, and his daughter Ivanka held a get out the vote rally in Manassas Monday afternoon. Clinton’s vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine campaigned at George Mason University in Fairfax County on Monday evening.

Kaine cast his ballot in Richmond, along with his wife, Ann Holton, shortly after the polls opened Tuesday, The Associated Press reports. He was cheered by supporters while waiting in line.

“The sign of a vigorous democracy is one where a lot of people participate,” Kaine told reporters after voting.

Hillary Clinton voted in Chappaqua, New York, with her husband, former President Bill Clinton. “It is the most humbling feeling,” she said of voting for herself.

Trump voted in New York City, accompanied by his wife, Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared. He said that he feels confident about the outcome but is concerned about voter fraud.

WTOP’s Dick Uliano, Amanda Iacone, Abigail Constantino, Colleen Kelleher, Omama Altaleb, Kristi King and Max Smith, and The Associated Press, contributed to this report. 

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