Elections in the District have been handicapped by faulty voting machines, inadequate polling staff, inaccessible polling stations and delays in vote tallying. And yet it is unclear whether any of those problems will have been remedied by the time the District holds its next major election in six months. These are the concerns held by D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie and a handful of other close observers of the city’s election process who say the D.C. Board of Elections appears to have made no clear progress toward fixing its long-standing problems ahead of the June primary contests or addressed how the board has managed millions of dollars in federal funds. As of last week, a full month after board members testified before the D.C. Council that they were unaware of how much new voting machines would cost, the board still had not determined whether it can afford to purchase new ones or whether it will lease them. The potential lengthiness of the city’s procurement process also raises the question of whether the board will have enough time to test the machines and train election workers, if it does acquire new ones.
Last month, McDuffie appeared to grow exasperated during a Judiciary Committee hearing when board members appeared unable to provide answers to basic questions about the state of the board’s finances.
Acting board chairwoman Deborah Nichols said she had only recently become aware that the office is in possession of $4.9 million in federal funds, which could be used to purchase new voting machines — despite years of complaints from board members that they lacked the funds to do so. “We did, or at least I thought we needed funding,” Nichols said during the Judiciary Committee hearing. “It wasn’t until six to eight months ago that I really found out the magnitude of what we had.”