Rigell campaign demands paper ballots in Va. Beach

A voter took video at the Tallwood location in Virginia Beach which purports to show a voting irregularity. (Video provided by Rep. Scott Rigell's campaign)
A voter took video at the Tallwood location in Virginia Beach which purports to show a voting irregularity. (Video provided by Rep. Scott Rigell's campaign)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — U.S. Representative Scott Rigell’s campaign for Congress is seeking a court order to force the Virginia Beach Voter Registrar to switch to paper ballots, after dozens of precincts reported voter machine difficulties, Tuesday.

The Virginia Department of Elections has confirmed technical difficulties with the calibration of some touch-screen voting machines in Virginia Beach and Newport News. Rigell’s office reports 43 precincts in Virginia’s Second Congressional District reported poll machine irregularities.

“In my more than two decades of being involved in the political process, I have never seen such a systemic failure of our voting machines here in Hampton Roads,” Rigell said in a statement Tuesday evening.

The Virginia Beach Voter Registrar has already denied Rigell’s initial request for paper ballots, so his campaign plans to force the switch in court, according to Virginia Code Section 24.2-642.

Video: Rigell talks about actions his campaign will take

According to the state Department of Elections, voters in Hampton Roads reported having a different candidate selection appear on voting machine tough screens than the candidate they voted for. The technical errors are being addressed by voting equipment technicians and with the AccuVote vendor, but in the meantime, election officials say the machines are being removed from service.

If a voting machine isn’t working correctly, and the machine isn’t immediately shut down by election officials — as required by law — you should notify the Virginia Department of Elections at (804) 864-8901 or by filing a formal complaint using the Virginia’s Voter Complaint form (click here).

The Second Congressional District encompasses Accomack and Northampton counties, Virginia Beach, and parts of Norfolk and Hampton. The following precincts have reported poll machine problems: Alton, Arrowhead, Bayside, Bonney, Cape Henry, Centerville, Chimney Hill, Colonial, Colony, Courthouse, Clulver, Dahlia, Glenwood, Great Neck, Homestead, Hunt, Kingston, Lafayette (ORF), Lake Christopher, Larkspur, Linkhorn, London Bridge, Lynnhaven, Manor, North Beach, Ocean Lakes, Ocean Park, Old Donation, Pleasant Hall, Pembroke, Rock Lake, Rosement Forrest, Rudee, Seatack, Shelton Park, Sherry Park, Sigma, Stratford Chase, Strawbridge, Tallwood, Trantwood, Upton, Witchduck.

The Newport News registrar’s office said they have had two precincts experience calibration issues: Denbigh and Reed. Both machines in those precincts have been re-calibrated, but have been removed from service. Voters are now using Optical Scan machines at those polling locations.

In Virginia Beach, Registrar Donna Patterson said 31 voting machines in 25 different precincts have experienced calibration issues — all of which are now out of service. There were a total of 820 voting machines in service at the beginning of the day.

“We want voters to be confident that we have done everything possible to make sure the election is being run fair and accurately,” she said. “So, if there is a problem with the voting machine, we do take that out of service.”

However, 10 On Your Side witnessed other voting machines experiencing calibration problems that were not taken out of service. When asked who was responsible for that, Patterson said, ” Ultimately, it is our responsibility to make sure the election officials are pulling the machines.”

Patterson said all of the voting machines in the city have been around since 2005. They were tested in October, and were working properly then.

All voting machines are tested prior to each election, according to the Department of Elections. However, some machines may need additional calibration after transportation to a polling location.

The Office of U.S. Representative Scott Rigell said it started receiving reports of poll machine irregularities Tuesday morning. Rigell’s office also released a video of the problem taken with a voter’s cell phone at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach. The video shows the voter touching the ballot box for Rigell, but the other candidate’s name being checked.

Another voter sent WAVY.com video of voting machine problems at St. Andrews Church in Virginia Beach.

Note: It is not against the law in Virginia to use your phone while at the polls, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections.

In a Tuesday morning news conference, Rigell called the issue “deeply troubling.” He went on to say, “This issue is real, and we’re not even halfway through the day.”

VIDEO: Full Rigell news conference

10 On Your Side learned this is not the first time Virginia Beach has had problems with touch-screen voting. In 2012, the Green Run precinct experienced the same voting machine calibration issues.

WAVY.com asked Patterson why the problem is happening again, and she blames the age of the almost decade-old machines.

Touch-screen voting machines give voters an opportunity to review their selections and make final edits on a summary screen before their ballot is cast. The Virginia Department of Elections said if a machine does not reflect the voter’s choice, the voter should notify an officer of election prior to casting their ballot.

Virginia Beach General Registrar Donna Patterson also reminded voters to check the final summary page on their electronic ballots before they finish voting. She released the following statement:

We have received a handful of complaints from voting officials of malfunctioning polling machines. As soon as we learned of these problems, we removed those machines from service. Please be assured that we are doing everything in our power to ensure that the election results are fair and accurate. To that end, we have instructed all election officials to remind voters to double-check the final summary page of their ballots, to make absolutely certain that their votes are properly recorded.

The Suzanne Patrick for Congress campaign released the following statement:

Virginia has elections every year, and we trust that the Department of Elections is doing everything it can to ensure accuracy during the voting process. We will, of course, work with election officials to ensure this accuracy. Our campaign has gotten a very low and limited number of reports about difficulties casting ballots today. In all cases, the problem was resolved quickly and the voter walked away satisfied that each had cast his or her ballot successfully. If voters experience any voting irregularities, they should call the Virginia Department of Elections at 804-864-8901.

You can also report polling issues with the Virginia Beach registrar at: (757) 385-8683 or email voter@vbgov.com. You can also report your issue with Scott Rigell’s office by phone at 757-425-0680 or by email: Esmel@ScottRigell.com.

For voting issues in North Carolina, you can contact the State Board of Elections by phone: (919) 733-7173 or (866) 522-4723 and by email: elections.sboe@ncsbe.gov.

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