Problems at the polls: What happened during Tuesday’s Republican primary in VB

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — We’re now getting some answers to what caused the problems at the polls in Virginia Beach for the Republican primary this Tuesday.

Issues with the electronic pollbooks began immediately when the polls opened at 6 a.m. The pollbooks are used to check in voters, verify their identity and voter registration. All 100 precincts in the resort city were affected. Teams were sent out to each precinct to fix the issue on-site. It took hours.

While officials worked to fix the problem, voters were given provisional ballots. On Wednesday, election officials said they received at least 4,600 provisional ballots — and that number could go up.

Donna Patterson with the Virginia Beach Registrar’s Office says they’re confident they identified what went wrong. It appears to be an issue with how the file was downloaded.

“From my understanding of it, there was a problem with the download that was done. And although everything looked OK to us, it was not downloaded correctly,” explained Patterson.

10 On Your Side asked if they tested it before the polls opened Election Day.

“The testing we did, of course, we would never want this to happen. We thought everything was OK, but obviously it was not,” said Patterson.

So, who is at fault? Was the machine, or user error?

“I think it’s a combination of things that happened and checks and balances. Sometimes you think you’ve covered all the checks and balances and sometimes there’s one more thing that could have been covered,” Patterson said.

Patterson says from now on they’ll have a back-up paper option for pollbooks at every precinct.

“This is something we could have never imagined, never wanted to have happen. I’m sorry it happened. Of course we’ll do another review because we don’t want this to ever happen again.”

Patterson wants everyone to know, even if they voted provisionally, their vote will be counted.

“Everyone who voted provisionally because of the pollbook malfunction, as long as they’re registered to vote, they voted in the precinct where they’re registered to vote, of course we will count those ballots. It’s a lot of provisionals. We started working on them this morning, we will continue tomorrow and we will continue until we finish.” 

As officials wrap up this election, they’re focused on making sure the general election in November goes as smooth as possible.

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