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Spotsylvania election volunteers err in programming machines, resulting in lost votes

 Lee Hill Elementary voters are split between the 1st and 7th congressional districts.
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Date published: 11/7/2012


Tom Strode said if someone hadn't warned him that his congressional district had changed, he might not have thought anything about it when Rob Wittman's name appeared on his voting screen Tuesday.

Strode, a Spotsylvania County resident, had been seeing the incumbent's name in the 1st District elections for years.

But because Strode knew he had been redistricted into the 7th District, he was looking for the names of Rep. Eric Cantor and challenger Wayne Powell.

When he didn't see them, he spoke to one of the voting officials at his polling place inside Lee Hill Elementary Tuesday morning.

"We tried again," Strode said, but the error remained.

They then moved to another voting machine marked as being for 7th District voters and discovered the same mistake.

Ultimately, voting officials at two Spotsylvania precincts, Lee Hill and Summit, realized they had the same problem.

All voting machines at the two precincts were set up for only one congressional district. Because of redistricting, each precinct should have had machines for both the 1st and 7th District races.

The result: 48 people at Lee Hill Elementary apparently voted in the wrong congressional race and 141 people at the Summit precinct had the same problem.

Though their ballots will be counted in the presidential race, the Senate race and for the two constitutional questions, their congressional votes will be thrown out, county spokeswoman Kathy Smith said.

State Secretary of the Board of Elections Donald Palmer said Tuesday afternoon that election officials are "pretty confident" that some voters cast ballots in the wrong congressional district, but that local officials will be the ones making certain during vote canvasses. He agreed that votes in the other races will count.

The congressional candidates reached Tuesday said they had not been informed about the error by either county or state officials.

The impact of the mistakes was heightened because of where they occurred.

At the Lee Hill precinct, a majority of the voters are in the 7th District, but all machines were set for the 1st District.

The Summit precinct, at Lee Hill Community Center, has very few voters in the 7th District, but all machines were set for it.

The chief election officials at each precinct immediately admitted that the problems were the result of human error.

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