Virginia’s election officials say they have a lot of work to do before the presidential primary in a few months.
Members of the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) met in Richmond Monday to discuss issues that came up during the recent elections: there were problems with some voting machines, as well as the commonwealth’s voter identification policy.
Officials said, overall, things went smoothly earlier this month. However, they are concerned that more voters will likely come out to the polls for the March 1 primary, and issues must be addressed before then.
"These machines are going to go down, and if you think it was a problem in this election, great balls of fire, what is going to happen if they go down on presidential, or even in the primary?" SBE Vice Chair Clara Belle Wheeler said.
The board had banned thousands of touch-screen voting machines after widely-reported issues. In response, many precincts went back to the old-fashioned paper ballots.
However, other touch-screens still in use - like one in Greene County - created troubles.
“In Greene County, we had an Edge machine that had to be taken offline during the day," said Gary Fox with the Virginia Department of Elections.
Fortunately, votes were recovered from the machine in Greene County. But it wasn't just that machine: calibration issues popped up in Norfolk, Halifax, Amherst, and elsewhere.
"The votes were being flipped when the voter would press the candidate of their choice," Fox said.
The SBE also received reports of officials not properly following the new voter identification rules. The commissioner of the Virginia Dept. of Elections, Edgardo Cortes, said some mistakes officials made at precincts were either asking for two forms of photo identification or not asking for identification at all.
Voters presenting state employee badges, which can also be acceptable forms of identification, were wrongfully told that didn't count.
"Heading into next year, we will have a lot of new voters and a lot of voters who have not voted since the photo ID requirement went into effect," Cortes said.
The board wondered if more training and resources could be offered between now and the March 1 presidential primaries.
The State Board of Elections plans on documenting all these incidents, and are working with officials between now and March. They hope to address technical problems as well as improper training for election volunteers.