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Spotsylvania election volunteers err in programming machines, resulting in lost votes

 Lee Hill Elementary voters are split between the 1st and 7th congressional districts.
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Date published: 11/7/2012


Six Spotsylvania precincts were split precincts for Tuesday's election. The Brent's Mill, Massaponax, Riverbend and Parkside precincts had no problems Tuesday, Smith said.

Two voters, including Strode, were the first to realize the problem at Lee Hill and Summit precincts. Lee Hill was aware of it by 7 a.m., Summit by 7:30 a.m., Smith said.

County election officials were contacted and eventually brought additional voting machines to both precincts. Precinct officials used paper ballots until they ran out of their initial supply of them.

The touch-screen machines on site couldn't be reprogrammed to fix the error or they would have lost the votes already cast, a local party official said.

Voters stood in line for more than two hours at both precincts Tuesday morning and well into the afternoon.

Some people who were in line when the problems were discovered opted to leave rather than wait for resolution.

The Summit precinct wound up with half as many machines for the 1st District race as it would have had without the error, according to information from election official Paul Jenkins. At 11 a.m., there were two voting machines for that district instead of four, he said.

Jenkins said turnout was heavy in the 3,500-voter precinct, but he said that wasn't unusual for a presidential race. He said people were moving slowly through the polls because they were taking time to consider the two proposed state constitutional amendments.


Tuesday's election mistake was unusual, said Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington.

"Virginia has a history of being quite professional in the conduct of its elections," he said.

When mistakes do happen, he added, they often occur after a census, when district lines are redrawn.

"The good news is that this was caught relatively early in the day, and it affects a relatively small number of voters in the precinct," he said.

Harold Ferenz wasn't happy about the delays he encountered at the Summit precinct and was troubled that some people lost their congressional votes.

"There's no excuse for a screw-up like this," he said.

Cathy Leonard was upset for the people--like a young woman in front of her--who came before work and didn't have time to wait for the problem to be resolved.

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