Fixing election night delays could cost millions

WASHINGTON — Potential remedies for election night delays in D.C. might cost millions of dollars, according to elections leaders who spoke at a public hearing Tuesday.

Most recently, there was an hours-long delay in tallying votes after polls closed in the April 1 Democratic primary in D.C. The public and the media waited well into the night to learn that D.C. council member Muriel Bowser had defeated Mayor Vince Gray.

Earlier this month, D.C. elections officials said some problems with electronic voting machines may have led to the delay in reporting results.

Deborah Nichols, chairwoman of the Board of Elections, says a computer network failure was to blame on that particular night.

She addressed the D.C. Council’s Committee on Government Operations.

With the Democratic primary, polls closed at 8 p.m., and shortly before midnight, officials were reporting paper ballot results from 81 percent of the city’s precincts. Those returns showed Mayor Vincent Gray trailing D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser by 10 percentage points.

Nichols claims, in order to provide more timely results in the future, the city must spend at least $2 million to replace voting machines that have old technology.

“This same equipment has been in the Board of Elections’ service well beyond the contemplated service period,” said Nichols.

She also recommends spending at least $2 million more for improvements to other equipment and facilities.

“I am well aware that there are improvements that can be made,” Nichols said

Nichols added that funding is a concern.

“The board does not have funding necessary to modernize our election equipment and facilities.”

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