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Voting Problems Delay Balloting in Wards 7 and 8

By Drew Costley and Royce Strahan
On September 15, 2010

Voting machine malfunctions, frustration with mayoral governing and a desire for change in leadership marked Primary Election Day in Wards 7 and 8. 

Evelyn Wooden, precinct captain at Malcolm X Elementary School, said the new electronic voting machines shut down "at least four times" on Tuesday.  Paper ballots substituted for the touch-screen machines during down times.

"It was frustrating for technicians, because they couldn't figure out why the machines kept shutting down," she said.  Wooden also said the flow of traffic was slowed for a total of 30 minutes at precinct 120.

Democratic mayoral candidate Vincent Gray's request to extend voting hours was denied by the D.C. Superior Court.  Gray's campaign requested the extension in response to two precincts that reported voting irregularities.

There were also problems with the voting machine at Washington Senior Wellness Center, according to Michelle Washington, captain of precinct 113.  She said in previous years, the Board of Elections and Ethics provided two voting machines, but provided only one this year. Washington said the turnout was larger and more diverse than in previous years. Six hundred residents voted by 4 p.m. when it usually took until 5 p.m. to reach those numbers.

James Bundy, 30, is a resident of the Barry Farms neighborhood in Ward 8.  He voted for Adrian Fenty in 2006, because Fenty was active in the community and spoke about continuing programs that former Mayor Anthony Williams improved upon while in office.  But after one term of Fenty's governance, Bundy had changed his mind.

"I live in Ward 8, and I'm not seeing any changes," said Bundy, who has lived in Washington his entire life. "The same things we were going through five years ago we are still going through."

Bundy, the father of three pre-teens, gave the summer youth employment program as an example of a social program that eroded after Fenty took office. "I never had a problem getting a job through the youth employment program. Now the program has trouble finding jobs for the kids and paying them."

Four years of scaled-back social programs, school closings and an endorsement from Ward 8 councilman Marion Barry are some of the factors that spurred Bundy to lend his vote to Gray.  Bundy wants to see improvements in his community and said Fenty kept promises to make improvements to more affluent neighborhoods while leaving other communities behind.

Washington echoed some of Bundy's frustrations with the Fenty administration and desires for improved government amenities.

"I would like to see less firing and more hiring," Washington said as she escorted voters to ballot machines. "I also want to see more hospitals being opened up. There isn't a trauma treatment center anywhere in the area."

Bundy said that Fenty "cut off paths for people to better themselves." Although he is voting for Gray, he said, "Both candidates gave a run-around instead of seriously talking about the issues."  This is the first race he's seen candidates making personal attacks instead of focusing more on issues that affect the community, he said.

"I'm looking for someone to keep their word.  If they keep their word, I'll vote for [them] every time."


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