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Elections Dept. says voting machine issues won’t happen again

Charlie Megginson Government, Headlines

elections day voting machine issues delaware

Election Systems & Software’s ExpressVote XL paper-based voting machines. (ES&S)

The Delaware Department of Elections has taken steps to ensure polling places never run out of ballots again, officials said during a Board of Elections meeting Monday night.

The announcement came after several polling places in New Castle County ran out of ballot activation cards during the Nov. 8 general election. Activation cards refer to the blank pieces of paper voters insert into the voting machines, upon which their votes are printed before being deposited into a secure container on the back of the machine.

“We had 161 polling places throughout New Castle County, and we had approximately between 10 and 15 locations that ran very low (on ballots),” said New Castle County Director Tracy Dixon. “Some of them, unfortunately, ran out, but for a very short period of time.”

Dixon said affected polling places contacted the Department of Elections and additional ballots were sent to those locations immediately. There were no reports of voters who were not able to vote due to the issue, she said.

“It was rectified very quickly — as quickly as we could,” she said. “It was a learning lesson for us and we have taken the necessary steps to ensure that this issue will not be encountered in any subsequent election.”

State Election Commissioner Anthony Albence said polling places should have supplies “over and above the total number of registered voters assigned to each location” to ensure a similar issue doesn’t happen again.

“We realize, of course, not 100% of voters turn out. Certainly, voters take advantage of other means, whether it’s absentee or vote by mail,” Albence said. “I’ve directed that that will be the case going forward.”

New Castle County board member John Pasquale moved to discuss the matter further during the board’s next executive session. Executive sessions occur behind closed doors and members of the public are not allowed to observe.

“Anthony, don’t forget about my request to have an executive session,” Pasquale told Albence. “I will be telling you pretty soon when I want to have that executive session.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Lynn Mey, a former Republican candidate for state representative, said the Department of Elections is downplaying the seriousness of the matter. Some voters had to wait as long as 45 minutes for additional activation cards to arrive, she said.

“Forty-five minutes, I think, is pretty extensive,” Mey said. “Most people would not wait, so I think that requires more follow-up.”

Voter Joyce Hoover said the problems weren’t limited to polling places running out of activation cards. “You’re telling me that the machines work extraordinarily well? Actually they didn’t,” she said. “The touchscreens wouldn’t function so many times. People had to tap and push and tap and push and some of them would not light up. This happened most of the day.”

The paper-based ES&S ExpressVote XL voting machines were first introduced in 2019. Election officials have hailed the machines for their “outstanding success” and “seamless performance.”

RELATED: Delaware election results 2022

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