Decision 2020

Long Lines at DC Primary Polls Were ‘Failed Execution,' Mayor Says

"From email requests to my office, large numbers of voters never got absentee ballots. Unacceptable," one D.C. Council member said

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The mayor of Washington, D.C., called long lines at polling sites during the primary election Tuesday a failure. Voters reported waiting for hours at polls and some said they never received mail-in ballots.  

“I know that D.C. voters spent hours at the polls yesterday and that is nothing short of failed execution,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. 

She assured residents that problems would be resolved before the general election in November. 

“I can assure D.C. voters that we will have the appropriate action plan,” she said. 

Many voters were in line past midnight. A total of 33,194 people voted in person before and during election day.

One D.C. Council member received reports that hundreds of residents who requested mail-in ballots did not receive them.

A total of 91,000 absentee ballots were requested, the D.C. Board of Elections said. The board says it counted about 50,000 received absentee ballots before early results were released Wednesday.

The board did not immediately respond to questions about problems with mail-in ballots. 

The votes are still being counted, but early results indicate changes to the D.C. Council, for who represents Ward 2 and Ward 4.

Resigned Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans' try at a comeback fell flat. Evans had received 293 votes as of Wednesday morning, coming in last place out of eight candidates.

Go here to see the full results for D.C. and Maryland

Ward 2 candidates Brook Pinto and Patrick Kennedy each captured more than 25% of the vote. Evans was the council's longest-serving member.

Janeese George, who billed herself as a progressive challenger to Ward 4 incumbent Brandon Todd, declared victory Wednesday morning. Todd replaced Bowser when she left the seat and has been an ally to the mayor.

The other incumbents – Vincent Gray, representing Ward 7, and Trayon White, representing Ward 8, appear to be safe, but results were not final.

Former Vice President Joe Biden captured 77% of Democratic primary votes counted so far, results indicated Wednesday morning. President Donald Trump won 88% of Republican primary votes.

The coronavirus pandemic led the D.C. Board of Elections to only open 20 voting centers, compared to 144 in a normal year. Citizens were urged to vote early or by mail, but that didn't stop a series of issues from troubling voters.

An election official wearing protective gloves using tongs hands out an "I Voted" sticker to a voter at a polling location in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

After noon on Tuesday, some voters were told they could cast ballots by email.

By Wednesday morning, D.C. had counted all the votes cast at precincts and mail-in ballots already received.

More mail-in ballots are expected to arrive at the Board of Elections on Wednesday and Thursday. The board is legally required to certify ballots within 10 days of counting the last votes.

Councilmember Elissa Silverman said on Twitter that more than 380 constituents complained that they never received mail-in ballots.

"From email requests to my office, large numbers of voters never got absentee ballots. Unacceptable," she said in a tweet.

Silverman told voters that if they didn't receive their ballot, they could reach out to the Board of Elections to get a ballot that could be submitted by email.

D.C. Council members shared stories of voters standing in line after midnight, hours after a 7 p.m. curfew was implemented in the District. Voters were exempt from the curfew, but News4 is investigating a report on social media from one voter that a police officer told them to go home.

Council Member Kenyan McDuffie said his Ward 5 called the situation "worse than unfair" and reported wait times of over four hours at McKinley and Turkey Thicket locations.

Shortly after 5 p.m., the official D.C. tracking website said waits at most polls were 90 minutes or longer. None were shorter than 30 minutes.

Some voters took to social media to report they had stood in line for hours.

Maryland reported voting issues as well. Gov. Larry Hogan called for the state Board of Elections to provide a complete report on primary voting issues by July 3.

“The fact that thousands of Marylanders either did not receive their ballots or received erroneous or late ballots, all of this is completely unacceptable,” Hogan said.

Because of the coronavirus, voters were strongly encouraged to mail in or drop off absentee ballots to reduce the number of people voting in person.

Voters waited at a distance from each other, poll workers wore masks and handed out ballots through plexiglass windows, and voting stations were disinfected after they were used.

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