Republicans and Democrats alike reported problems Tuesday using touch-screen voting machines in Virginia Beach and Newport News, with some claiming they almost cast ballots for candidates they did not support. “They told me my finger was too fat,” said John Owens, recounting a conversation he had with the Virginia Beach Voter Registrar’s Office after experiencing trouble voting for Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell. The extent of the “calibration issues” is unclear. Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortes said 32 of Virginia Beach’s 820 AccuVote TSX machines were pulled from service by 3:30 p.m. Another four were discontinued in Newport News, where most votes were recorded on paper ballots. Cortes said he didn’t know how many people voted on the machines before they stopped using them at the 25 precincts.
Cortes blamed the problems – which could prompt candidates to file legal challenges of the results – on how the machines were handled before the polls opened. He noted that the machines, some of which date back to 2005, were calibrated before they were transported to the precincts and could have been jostled along the way. “We don’t believe this is anything more than a calibration issue,” Cortes said.
Rigell unsuccessfully lobbied Virginia Beach Voter Registrar Donna Patterson Tuesday morning to use paper ballots after his campaign heard from 25 supporters who experienced problems trying to vote. Rigell said each person complained that the machines tried to register a vote for his opponent, Suzanne Patrick.
“This is disenfranchisement of the American voter,” said Rigell, adding that it was clear “something is really structurally and systemically wrong.”