Henrico County registrar admits thousands of absentee ballots found on mislabeled memory card

2020 Election

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Thousands of absentee ballots were misplaced in Henrico County on Election Day.

A social media post by the Virginia Public Access Project said the votes were saved on a computer memory stick and mislabeled “provisional ballots.” The project said that more than 14,000 absentee ballots were overlooked in the county on election night.

Henrico County General Registrar Mark Coakley confirmed the report to 8News Thursday morning saying, on election night his office uploaded 10 USB memory sticks worth of ballots to their computer software. He said one out of the ten cards had a “filter checked off” which didn’t allow those votes to be read. He says this was all a computer software issue. 

Coakley said his office didn’t catch the error until VPAP tweeted, saying the votes were “unaccounted for”. “What triggered this was the tweet from VPAP,” Coakley said.

He said after this tweet, they re-checked the paper report, “spotted the red flags”, and pinpointed the issue.

Once the county resolved the error, the cluster of votes became the key to victory. With those ballots, 7th congressional candidate Abigail Spanberger received enough votes to declare she’s won the race. Those additional votes boosted Spanberger’s margin over Nick Freitas by about 5,000 votes.

“There was a difference between the known number of people who were listed as having voted and the votes that were released. So it was good to see them fill out that discrepancy,” Spanberger said Wednesday night.

The registrar said the mistake wouldn’t have gone unnoticed for long. “Thank you to VPAP for tweeting out the situation. We would have caught it but we caught it sooner rather than later,” Coakley said.

8News asked the registrar if the way the ballots were counted is secure. He said the memory sticks are a second, backup copy of the traditional paper ballots. He said that it’s standard procedure, adding that voters should not worry and that all the votes are being accounted for.

Henrico County says there are still another 7,000 mail-in ballots that need to be counted.

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