More than 1,000 primary election ballot requests lost, D.C. officials say

The D.C. Board of Elections lost at least 1,100 ballot requests from local voters during the District’s primary election earlier this month, DCist reported Friday.

Alice Miller, the Board’s election director, said at a public hearing Sunday that city officials lost requests following technological failures with the organization’s email and mobile app, through which residents could apply for absentee ballots. Residents left without an absentee ballot traveled to in-person voting centers or did not vote at all, according to DCist.

“We had a lot of requests that came in through our email system that were lost,” she said at the meeting. “And there’s no other way we can put it. The technology failed.”

Residents flooded voting centers for hours to cast their votes in the election, an issue D.C. officials aimed to avoid due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miller said 700 of the 1,100 voters whose absentee ballots were misplaced headed to voting centers, leaving at least 400 votes unheard. More than 70 percent of the 114,000 primary election voters cast their ballots through mail, according to DCist.

City officials urged voters in March to cast their ballots through mail to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Officials were aware the Board’s Vote4DC app, which can process ballot requests, did not work on most Android phones, but the application ultimately failed after being swamped with troubleshooting and absentee ballot applications, DCist reported. Public witnesses at the hearing also complained about a faulty online ballot tracker, weak communication with voters, short staffing for curbside voting and lines at voting centers that lasted up to five hours, according to DCist.

The city’s lack of response to ballot requests drew concern from voters last month over what they should do if they never receive a ballot. On Election Day, the Board permitted voters who never received a ballot to submit a PDF version via email.

Officials will send every registered D.C. voter an absentee ballot for the general election in November, the Board announced Wednesday. Board chairman Michael Bennett said officials will also lead a stronger communications campaign and hire more IT workers for the general election.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.