As Virginia’s extended registration deadline looms, there are concerns that voters added on Friday may still encounter issues at the polls.
Registrars across the state are worried about slow computer systems, record numbers of voters registering, and the state sending a huge number of provisional ballot envelopes to localities across Virginia.
Provisional ballots are cast if something is amiss with a voter’s registration, or if voting systems go down. The ballot is put into a provisional envelope, and counted later, if verified by election officials.
Chesterfield’s General Registrar Larry Haake says the county usually receives up to 1,500 envelopes. However, this year, Haake says the state sent Chesterfield 82,000 envelopes. In Richmond, General Registrar Kirk Showalter says her office received 20,000 provisional ballot envelopes, compared to a typical 6,500.
State computer systems that haven’t proven to be consistently reliable, coupled with mass numbers of provisional ballot envelopes, have some officials fearing state election heads are anticipating sizable problems on Election Day. State Senator Amanda Chase said during a legislative hearing last week registrars across Virginia voiced aggravation over a slow state computer system used to process new voters.
"We heard registrar after registrar after registrar bring to our attention a number of issues, one of those being the IT system," said Senator Chase.
A reportedly slow computer system causing backlogs, coupled with tens of thousands of new names to enter into the election day books, is prompting Haake to fear that not all registered names will make it into the actual poll books election day. He says it could take days for one voter application to go through the online system.
"There is a chance there may be those who don't make the poll book. There also may be new voters who don’t get their notification to where their polling place is, and the remedy to that is to go online and see where your polling place is. That too could create a bottleneck or overload on the system," said Haake.
Senator Chase is calling for deputy Commonwealth's Attorneys in her district, which includes much of Chesterfield, to be on hand at all polling sites.
"If we have a citizen who has a particular issue, saying, ‘Hey, I thought I registered to vote. My name's not on there,’” said Senator Chase, “There's a procedure in place, and we have legal counsel on site, on election day, to address these issues.”
Virginia Board of Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortes says the large number of provisional ballot envelopes were sent just as a precaution. Cortes says the state elections department has broken voter activity records all year long. He says his staff is working around the clock to fine-tune the system, even adding another server last week with additional memory. Cortes says he has confidence that all the registrars will be ready for November 8.
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