by Natalia Mittelstadt
Election machines reported more votes than physical ballots cast in two precincts in an influential Virginia county, raising concerns about election administration in the midterms after the county’s former registrar was charged earlier this year with multiple election-related offenses.
In Prince William County, one of Virginia’s most important electoral counties, at least two precincts had more ballots reported on the machine scanners’ tallies of ballots than were tabulated by election officers, according to a report by Electoral Process Education Corporation (EPEC), a nonprofit that performs election data analysis.
A board of directors member of EPEC told Just the News on Monday that precincts P-612 and P-104 were the ones affected by the discrepant vote totals. P-612 is in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, and P-104 is in the 10th.
Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger won the 7th CD against GOP nominee Yesli Vega, and Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton won reelection in the 10th CD against Republican candidate Hung Cao.
In P-612, the ballot scanner reported 531 ballots scanned, but only 504 ballots were actually collected in the machine. Election officers realized the discrepancy when comparing the check-ins on the poll books to the number of ballots the scanner had reported.
The issues were documented by election officers with the General Registrar and Electoral Board, and the information was recorded in the official statement of results and chief’s notes.
Election officers hand-counted the ballots according to election procedures multiple times. The outcome was 27 more votes on the machine tallies than physical ballots. A total of 22 of those votes were for the Democratic candidate, three for the Republican, and two write-ins.
In P-104, there were only about 5-10 more ballots on the machine tallies compared to physical ballots out of a total of 1505 ballots cast.
While the discrepancies won’t change the outcome of the elections, and no other errors have been discovered, the issue has yet to be explained.
Prince William County’s Office of Elections didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.
EPEC “is urging Virginia’s public election officials to verify scanner machine ballot counts before certification of results in key precincts as a result of recent findings.”
The nonprofit added, “Although the number of ballots impacted was small, the repeated findings raise questions about the origin of the errors and whether the machines were operating correctly.”
The county election results are to be certified by the electoral board on Tuesday. Certification includes seeing how many people voted, what ballots were rejected, and checking provisional ballots.
EPEC is requesting that election officials pull out equipment at precincts that had discrepancies between the physical ballots and machine tallies, which is part of the election process, and “perform a full hand count and tabulation audit”; compare physical ballots “with the Scanner Report Tapes, the full Cast Vote Record (CVR), Digital Ballot Images and other machine records and logs”; ensure the election equipment is in compliance “with Virginia’s election statutes by certifying software, hardware, and programming hash codes, and then checking randomly selected precincts with the same equipment but with no reported issues”; and update procedure that would “require verification that the number of ballots in the scanner collection bin match the scanner result report tape,” and if they do not match, then perform a hand count and record the results.
These issues in Prince William County come after the county’s former registrar of voters, Michele White, was charged in September with two felony counts alleging corrupt conduct as an election official and making a false statement, and one misdemeanor charge of willful neglect of duty by an elected official.
White had resigned abruptly last year without explanation, and current Director of Elections/General Registrar Eric Olsen reported “discrepancies” to the commissioner of elections and State Board of Elections earlier this year, which led to the investigation by the state attorney general.
In October, White’s trial was scheduled for April.
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Natalia Mittelstadt graduated from Regent University with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Communication Studies and Government.
Photo “Voting Ballot” by Phil Roeder. CC BY 2.0.