Powhatan residents react after 9 precincts run out of ballots on Election Day

Virginia Elections

POWHATAN COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)– Some Powhatan County residents said they lost confidence in the election process after several locations ran out of ballots on Election Day. A portion of voters in the county had to fill out a photocopied version of the ballot instead.

Karen Bailey Alexander is the county’s registrar. According to Baily nine precincts ran out of ballots and the photocopied versions all had to be counted by hand.

On Election Day, resident Sara Moncrieff who lives in the 4th district, headed out to Powhatan Middle School to vote around 5:30 p.m. Moncrieff told 8News, she was surprised when she wasn’t given the standard ballot.

“I was handed a ballot that looked exactly like the ones you would typically expect to see, but it was on a different paper. I didn’t think much of it until I got to the end. Instead of sliding it into the machine, we were folding it and putting it into the bottom into a slot,” Moncrieff said. “It caught me off guard.”

Tim Gresham is a Powhatan resident located in the 5th district. Gresham voted with the photocopied version of the ballot at Passion Community Church on Anderson Highway.

“It doesn’t really engender a lot of confidence in the system,” Gresham said.

Alexander said the Powhatan County Registrar’s office ordered a sufficient number of ballots, but their vendor did not deliver all of them in the correct format.

“We’re a small rural county. We only have twelve precincts. It just really doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to get it right,” Gresham said. “We all want to know that our vote is appropriately counted and this just doesn’t give you that nice warm fuzzy feeling that your vote is being counted.”

The registrar’s office also experienced a higher-than-expected turnout.

Kristen Martinez is the Powhatan County Deputy Registrar. Martinez told 8News, the county’s turnout for this election was more than 70%. The county’s overall turnout for the 2020 General Election was more than 85%.

“I chose to look at the positive that Powhatan County ran out of ballots because we demonstrated excitement in voting. COVID has proven that the Governor election is more important than the Presidential election. The results certainly confirmed that,” said Alyssa Winters, who is a resident in the county.

Moncrieff said she doesn’t blame the office, but she does want answers.

“Powhatan county is full of wonderful people. I think that our registrar’s office needs our support and needs our help but also, I’m hoping that we hear an explanation from the vendor publicly” Moncrieff said.

Alexander said she is accepting full responsibility for the issue. She was unable to provide further response during the day on Wednesday while she, the electoral board and observers worked to canvas the county’s votes. However she did provide a response from the electoral board that evening.

The statement explains that is state protocol to print copies of ballots for hand counting when no scannable option exists. It also reiterates that everyone was still able to cast their vote and have it counted.

The electoral board said all of the county’s votes, including the ones done by hand, were counted and sent to the Virginia Department of Elections before 11 p.m.

According to the statement, “Powhatan County was not the last locality to post election results on
Election Night as there were other issues faced throughout the Commonwealth including several
other localities under the same ballot-shortage-circumstances.”

Click here to read the full statement.

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