D.C. elections chief Clifford Tatum admits 'missteps'

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The District's elections regulators came in for harsh criticism Monday for their management of the Nov. 6 election, with one person equating the experience to "voting in a Third World country."

"Were there some missteps that took place?" said Clifford Tatum, the executive director of the D.C. Board of Elections, during testimony before a D.C. Council committee. "Certainly."

But Tatum was adamant that any errors in election management didn't affect results and said officials were generally satisfied with what transpired last month.

"We were able to conduct a successful election," Tatum said. "We believe the system performed well."

But others didn't share Tatum's assessment of an election cycle plagued by long lines, ballot errors and malfunctioning equipment.

"It was a disaster and completely unreal," said Rachelle Nigro, who has served as an advisory neighborhood commissioner, of Election Day at Kennedy Recreation Center in Shaw. "One of my constituents compared it to voting in a Third World country."

Other advocates told lawmakers that some precincts weren't accessible for the disabled, while poorly trained employees ran sites elsewhere in the District.

Nigro said that in some cases, voters were provided with ballots that were not correct for their addresses, potentially allowing them to vote in races in other districts.

"Constituents continually came to me saying they were handed the wrong ballot," Nigro said. "It was the worst day ever for the Board of Elections."

Tatum acknowledged that "human error" had caused the problems at Kennedy.

"It's our intent for that particular breakdown not to happen again," he told lawmakers.

While Tatum said elections officials are still conducting their internal review of voting processes on Nov. 6, he said new policies are in the pipeline.

"We do intend to make changes where we can make changes," Tatum said.

Although Tatum did not commit to adding new locations for early voting in future cycles, he indicated city officials are considering additional sites.

"We probably need more than eight early vote centers," Tatum said, not long after one witness urged the city have at least 16 spread throughout the District.

Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser, who chairs the committee with oversight of the elections board, hammered Tatum for offering limited information to her panel on Monday.

"You've provided absolutely no substantive information to the council," Bowser said after Tatum's opening remarks. "That's totally disrespectful... You decided that you'd rather give me five pages of testimony that doesn't say anything about what happened on Nov. 6?"

Tatum, however, defended his testimony and said "it takes time" for the board to complete its post-election review.

The next citywide election is scheduled for April 23.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner