WINCHESTER — Frederick County Director of Elections/General Registrar Rich Venskoske says county election officials have learned their lesson from mistakes that resulted in voting delays during Tuesday’s election.
Paper ballot shortages and other glitches led to long lines at numerous polling places throughout the county.
Although the polls officially closed at 7 p.m., Venksoske said the Kernstown and Armel precincts — located at Orchard View Elementary and Armel Elementary schools, respectively — did not finish voting until about 10:30 p.m.
While most of the voters opted to wait in line, Venskoske said some left the polls without voting because the wait was too long.
Venskoske said he failed to order enough ballots. Usually in election years that proceed a presidential election, 25% to 30% of the county’s registered voters cast ballots. With those percentages in mind, Venskoske ordered enough ballots for a voter turnout of 35%. His decision was approved by the Frederick County Electoral Board. With the additional 5% worth of ballots, Venskoske said the board thought the county had its bases covered “and in a normal situation we would have.”
The decision proved to be a mistake, as there were ballot shortages in all 21 precincts.
Venskoske said on Wednesday that 25,038 people voted in Frederick County — 42% of the county’s 59,551 eligible voters.
He cited the county sheriff's race as one reason for the high voter turnout.
Next year, for the 2020 presidential election, paper ballots will be ordered for 100% of the county’s registered voters, Venskoske said. During future elections, election officials will order ballots for a more than 35% voter turnout, saying Tuesday's incident was "a lesson learned." He said it is unlikely ballots will be ordered for 100% of voters in non-presidential election years, due to the printing costs involved.
He said it costs $6,000 to print ballots for 35% of the county’s voters. It costs nearly $18,000 to print enough ballots for 100% of the county’s voters, and Venskoske said he did not want taxpayer money wasted on thousands of unused ballots.
Ballot shortages were not the only problems that plagued Frederick County’s elections on Tuesday. There were also paper jams in some of the scanners that read the ballots. Venksoske said there were a lot of “spoiled ballots” this year, with people accidentally or incorrectly marking ballots — which made the scanner machine mistakenly believe that voters were trying to vote for two candidates. Voters who tried to enter a “spoiled ballot” were issued a new paper ballot.
The scanner machines are provided by Elections Systems and Software, based in Chicago. Venskoske said it is typical for polling locations to have only one scanner in Virginia.