Why did it take so long to count DC votes?

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA9) -- One day after the D.C. Primary, the Board of Elections is trying to deflect criticism of its painfully slow delivery of results.

Only 22% of registered voters even cast their ballots yesterday. WUSA9 returned to the Board of Elections today to ask some tough questions.

We asked the Board of Elections Executive Director Cliff Tatum, "Why did it take so long to count 80,000 votes?"

His response: "Well, it's not about the number of votes that are on the machines."

The ballots rolled in quickly. The results did not.

"What went wrong?," we pressed.

Tatum responded, "I wouldn't say anything went wrong. I would say that we accurately counted the votes. It took us a bit longer than you're used to."

To say a "bit" longer may be a vast understatement.

"How do you have an IT person who doesn't know how to upload your own election return numbers to your website? The website was just dysfunctional!" exclaimed Dorothy Brizill, a D.C. government Watchdog who runs DC Watch.

With the website failing, the Board of Elections team distributed photocopied results—that were both incomplete and confusing.

Said Tamara Robinson of the Board of Elections as she passed out photocopies,"These don't include the touch-screen ballots for election day. We're getting a report out as soon as we can."

As Tatum acknowledged, his message could have been clearer about when the results would come in. "Had I set the expectation right, hey it's going to take me 4-6 hours, then everyone could have planned accordingly."

Tatum blames any delays on the record number of electronic voting machines deployed—twice the number used in previous elections.

"In no way, shape, form or fashion am I blaming the captains, but as we're in the heat of the battle, things happen," he said. "On election day, it's a little warmer in the room."

In fact, five machines in five different precincts were not closed properly, causing lengthy delays. "With 286 machines, if I have 5 units that weren't closed properly, I'm okay with that," he said.

But as a nation that helps other countries hold their elections, government watchdog Dorothy Brizill finds it unacceptable that D.C. cannot seem to hold its own.

"It's embarrassing. It's got to stop. If we have to go back to paper ballots, so be it. So be it. But it cannot go on. It cannot go on," said Brizill.

The Board of Elections says it is looking for ways to make the process more efficient in advance of the November general election.

The Board of Elections has to do a post-election assessment of its performance within 90 days. Work on that is already underway. Also, absentee and provisional ballots still have to be counted by April 11.


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