Voter Patrol: Long Lines & Machine Mix-Ups - NBC4 Washington
2012 Elections: News, Analysis, Videos, and Breaking on the Presidential Election, Local Elections, and More

2012 Elections: News, Analysis, Videos, and Breaking on the Presidential Election, Local Elections, and More

Complete coverage of the 2012 election

Voter Patrol: Long Lines & Machine Mix-Ups

Did people vote for the wrong candidate in Spotsylvania? Why were the lines so long in DC & Northern Virginia? The I-Team answers your questions.



    Prince William County Supervisor Frank Principi is sending a letter to the county's Board of Elections because he wants a full investigation into what happened at the Potomac Middle School polling place in Dumfries after voters faced waits of four to five hours. (Published Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012)

    The News4 I-Team has received hundreds of calls and emails telling us about problems you’re seeing at the polls. We got the answers from election officials.

    In Prince William County, Virginia, if you got in line at 7 p.m. you will vote by 10 p.m. tonight - a three hour wait.

    It's happening at the River Oak Precinct located at Potomac Middle School in Dumfries, the News4 I-Team has learned. Election officials tell us they had an unexpectedly large turnout.

    Waits were worse this morning: four and half hours. Critics claim there aren't enough machines; there are six.

    The chairman of the county Democratic committee said at 5 p.m. tonight there were more than one thousand people waiting in the cold; they finally brought them all inside.

    Once again, if people got in line by the time the polls closed at 7 p.m., they will be allowed to vote.

    We also received a phone tip that the machines at Kerrydale Elementary School in Woodbridge were down for hours.

    Betty Weimer with the Prince William County Board of Elections says machines were never down. There was an issue with the card activator, so the machines were put into manual mode. But people were still able to vote on the machines. She says the card activator was fixed and the precinct has five machines.

    Here's more of the reports that we checked out:


    Stephanie Lunney emailed us to tell us, “There are problems in the Lee Hill District. There are currently only two machines working. And voters are waiting over three hours to vote.”

    Kristin added in another email, “Votes there before 8 am were said to not count because of machine problems. This stinks to high heaven."

    David Jones is the Chairman of the Electoral Board of Spotsylvania County. He says the Lee Hill District and the Summit District are split precincts, where some vote for Virginia’s 1st Congressional race and others vote for the 7th District. Jones says there was a mix-up with machines when poll workers mistakenly set all of the machines to vote on just the 1st Congressional race. He says they didn’t catch the problem until an estimated 260 people voted, meaning some of those voters could have cast a vote in the wrong congressional race. Blaming “human error,” Jones says there’s nothing they can do about it unless there’s a court order. The 7th District is the race between House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) and his Democratic challenger Wayne Powell.


    Jeffrey Hinmon emailed us to tell us “Kilmer Middle School in Vienna has many hundreds of people in line, moving VERY slowly, with an estimated wait time of ‘several hours.’”

    Sherry Garay arrived at the Bailey’s Elementary School “polling station at 6:10 AM and was shocked to see a line at least 300 people deep, since this is the very first time I have ever had to wait in a line more than 10 minutes to vote.”

    D. Holmes emailed, “3 voting machines…for thousands…2-3 hour wait for electronic voting. 2 hr. wait for paper ballot. 10:30am lights go out…does this affect count?”

    In an email statement, Fairfax County spokeswoman Lisa Connor says, “If the electricity goes out, all votes still count since machines and voting continues since machines have battery back-up.” She explained the “long lines at polls today can be attributed to many reasons” including new Virginia legislature concerns like verified audit trails. “Other reasons for long lines, some precincts are not at full strength with election officials, if some didn’t show up due to family emergency or sickness; there is an extremely heavy turnout; the physical set up in some precincts precludes separate lines for optical scan paper ballots versus touch screen, but anyone can request to vote by paper ballot. Voting with paper ballot will be faster than waiting in line for touch screen machines.”

    We received multiple complaints of voters being turned away, including an incident at Gunston Elementary School involving “an older Asian woman” who was told “that unless she had all her citizenship documents, she couldn’t vote.”

    Connor says, “We also heard the complaint and sent county personnel to the Gunston poll. Found no problems. It is not a question of citizenship papers – everyone must show ID, according to the State Board of Elections.


    Barbara emailed she “voted at Drew Middle School in Falmouth, VA this morning. At approximately 5:55 this morning we were informed that a test vote was done and the machines were down.”

    Election officials say they were “back to normal within 15 minutes.”


    We received many complaints about people standing in line for more than two hours throughout the District, including polls at Church of Annunciation on Massachusetts Avenue, Columbia Heights Education Center and Van Ness and Murch Elementary Schools.

    Julie O'Sullivan emailed us, “I've been trying to vote at Oyster School. Took an hour to even get signed in.... There is only one electronic voting machine and one guy taking paper ballots."

    Agnes Moss with the DC Board of Elections tell us DC polling places only have one machine because, in past elections, people mainly wanted paper ballots. “We staff precincts and order machines using historical data to guide us,” Moss says. “In 2008 there were precincts that didn’t use machines at all.” She says, “This year more are wanting the machines” and “we’re set to have a record turnout for voting.”