Special Election Tuesday: At The Polls

Brent Finnegan -- June 15th, 2010

Polls are open in the 26th district for the House of Delegates special election. Voters will select a delegate for the seat previously held by Republican Matt Lohr.

But several voters have reported problems at the polls in the city early Tuesday morning. According to unconfirmed reports, the software the poll workers were using crashed at three or all five precincts in the city.

At 7:22 a.m., reader John Marr wrote:

Unfortunately I was informed that all of the polling locations inside the City of Harrisonburg are down. The good news? All the polling sites in the County are working just fine.

To be fair I was offered the opportunity to vote provisionally, however Keister didn’t even have the forms. Instead I would have had to write a candidates name on a blank sheet of paper and seal it in a plain envelope in the hopes that it wouldn’t get lost and that someone would count it later.

UPDATE: The issues with the software appear to have been resolved at this point. All poll locations are functioning.

26 HoD district map

Help us track what’s happening at polling locations across the district by leaving a comment here, or by using the #hburgnews Twitter hashtag. What was happening at your polling location?

Polls close at 7:00 p.m.

Until the results are announced, you can participate in this utterly unscientific reader exit poll, and view results here.

In this special election, I voted for
Kai Degner
Tony Wilt
Carolyn Frank
No one (I didn’t vote)
Free polls from Pollhost.com

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71 Responses to “Special Election Tuesday: At The Polls”

  1. JGFitzgerald says:

    There is no way to tell yet whether this is an attempt by Debbie and Suzanne to suppress the city vote, although it would be in character. It’s more blatant than the moves in 2008 to prevent Dems from voting, and it’s more effective. In 2008 Suzanne and Debbie diverted attention from the felonies in the Registrar’s office by switching the focus to election observers. And already this year there are Wilt supporters at Keister raising hell about a single Kai observer. Since they got away with it then, they’ll presumably try the same pivot this time. Stay tuned.

    • citizen says:

      I was there Joe. No “hell” being raised. Someone just asked if it was appropriate for a Kai supporter to be inside the building, so close to the polls. The Kai supporter was taking names of people who were leaving after NOT being able to vote. I guess if enough people were not able to vote, taking names would give support to keeping the poles open later. I have no problem with that. Since she was waring a Kai sticker and taking names she was NOT AN “OBSERVER”.

      Also, what UNION was hired to bus in the get out the vote efforts for Kai this weekend? The guy who knocked on my door Saturday was from Arlington, VA.

    • Ben says:

      So quick to cry foul play when you can’t win your shot to push for your agendas, aren’t you?

      I know both Suzanne and Debbie and can vouch that NEITHER of these ladies would ever do anything which would cause anyone to call into question the ability to execute their respective duties.

      Frankly, making baseless accusations because you lost is not only unprofessional and unnecessary, but quite honestly, childish and immature.

      Acting like this, and then wondering why the majority of constituents in the area can never take the Democrats seriously… take a look at your own actions just since Tuesday and you shall see why.

      • nicklaus combs says:

        you know what happens when you say this person or that person would never ever do something….

  2. Brooke says:

    I saw a single laptop down in Spotswood, but had absolutely no problem voting at 7:30 or so. I don’t think it’s anywhere near precincts being entirely down city-wide.

    I have a funny feeling that what John posted was a really feeble attempt at a “hey, don’t bother voting, City residents” joke.

    • Brooke, stop trying to discredit John. He was not joking. I got several of the same reports.

      • Brooke says:

        Brent, I have no idea who John is, so I’m not trying to “discredit” anyone. And if you hadn’t been so quick to try to slap my hand for an imagined wrong, you would have seen I just posted an apology for the mistake. Back off.

  3. Brooke says:

    (my apologies….I’ve just been informed by Brent that John was NOT joking)

  4. JGFitzgerald says:


    The city Republicans have tried this sort of thing before. However, we had always given them the benefit of the doubt because their attempts were always before and after the election, but were legal on the day itself. This is the first blatant attempt on Election Day itself. Under existing election laws and procedures, they will probably get away with it. No one wants to believe it can really happen, but there is a better than even chance they’re trying to pull a fast one.

  5. Brooke says:

    I’m confused, what exactly are they being accused of? Telling people polling stations are down, or of actually sabotaging the computers?

    • Emmy says:

      I’m confused too. Is it not possible that there is a real problem? I mean, computers do go down.

      • Brooke says:

        To be sure, if there IS something hinky going on, I’m going to be pissed, and I want to do something to prevent the perpetrators from being successful.

        BUT, where I was, I didn’t see anyone telling me I couldn’t vote, or saying anything other than a simple hand-written sign on one of the tables saying the computer was down. Given the fact that they had no problem checking me in, and getting me to cast my ballot seemed to indicate all it meant was I couldn’t check in at that particular laptop. So, I guess I’m not sure how this would be effective as a deterrent, if no one even suggested I not vote, or vote in an alternative manner.

  6. Brooke says:

    And how can we make sure they don’t get away with it?

  7. Josh says:

    There was no line whatsoever at Stone Spring around 7:45 this morning. Probably 10 or so election day volunteers, a Kai supporter, a Wilt supporter and one lonely voter. :)

  8. You know, the City Voter registrar, Debbie Logan, is very good friends with the Obenshains…we’re “all in the family” at First Pres.

    • Brooke says:

      Ok, but does that automatically mean she’s guilty of something? What if Debbie was friends with Kai? Would that mean she was guilty of swaying things towards the Dem vote?

      I was as pissed as anything when student voter registrations were getting “lost” during the Presidential election, but I am not sure we can automatically assume that every single problem is voter fraud, without evidence showing it.

      If there’s fraud, there’s fraud, and hopefully evidence will be found, but being friends with, or going to the same church as, a certain political family is not evidence.

        • Did I mention that many of the employees of the registrar’s office also go to First Pres?

          Was any legal action ever taken against the Logan boy?

          • Dave, Dave, Dave. We’re talking about CA Marsha Garst and Judge Lane. When well-connected republican kids break the law, it is just kids having fun. When college kids break the law you set the Constitution aside and issue illegal bench orders, and kick down doors. Welcome to Assbackistan!

          • Except that no charge, here, was ever brought…and that charge would have been in District Court.

            Perhaps JGF can enlighten us?

          • Stephanie says:

            Mr. Briggman, I’m very offended by your comments about First Pres. I go to church there, know the people you mentioned, but didn’t vote Republican today (as many other Democrats that attend my church). However, people like you make me think about NOT voting Democrat next time – I do not want to be associated with people like you, in your words, “all in the Democrat family.” Please apologize and leave my church alone.

          • BANDIT says:

            You’ll never change Briggman…..

          • Dave Briggman says:


            Do the community a favor and DON’T vote Democrat next time. Please. You must not regularly read this blog, as I often speak against Democrats.

            You think I supported Kai? Bwahahahahahahahaha.

            Since you’re so politically enlightened, why not tell us all exactly what I’ve said that offended you?

            And, Benny, don’t you have a Playgirl shoot to do? Another business to create? A contractor’s license to renew?

          • Dave Briggman says:

            And Stephanie,

            I didn’t create the issues affecting the Voter Registrar’s Office…I didn’t make young Mr. Logan harass Joe Fitzgerald by telephone, or mail a bunch of ballots from Richmond back to here.

            It’s a fact that many in First Pres work in the Registrar’s Office. Is that what’s offensive to you?

            People who operate and frequent this blog know that I couldn’t care less about who I offend over what.

            How about the former City Treasurer, Stephanie? You go to First Pres where, regardless of what she or Benny said about being driven out my little ‘ole me during some imaginary conversation in Showker Hall, they are still members of the Church.

            Do you think Becky Neal should have been removed from the Treasurer’s Office as she was under several indictments for the many interest-free payday loans she was giving herself, and her husband, with taxpayer dollars?

        • Brooke says:

          I am well aware of what happened, which is why I referenced it and said it pissed me off. My point isn’t even that it couldn’t have been intentional. It could have been. My point being, we can’t automatically assume every little thing that goes wrong is intentional.

          And don’t call me “dear” (or “Dhirley” LOL) When done in that sort of context it’s nothing short of condescending.

        • Brooke says:

          But that being said, I do have to wonder why a deeper look wasn’t taken when that all went down. Someone just saying their son had no access to the ballots is not good enough.

  9. Alex Sirney says:

    Voted at Keister at 7:45 – no line, only one computer working. I had the option of voting electronically or on paper. There were two Wilt people and two Degner people there.

  10. mtnsailor says:

    We voted at Keister at 8:05AM- were voter #72. They reported their computer system was *down for 1.5 hours; but, they took many “provisional” ballots (maybe on plain paper?). The electronic system worked for us.

  11. I was told (unconfirmed) that the software issue had to do with the registrar’s office not taking the final step in setting up the software. The issue affected early morning voters, and was resolved by 7:00 or 7:30.

    But I’m wondering why they didn’t have plenty of provisional ballots ready to go in case of an emergency like that.

    • blondiesez says:

      I tried to vote at Keister at 6:25 am — about four of us standing at the door whilst a bunch of scurrying around was going on and not much else. No offer of provisional ballot or any explanation from the poll workers: I learned all I learned from the other voters waiting.

      I left fifteen minutes later so I wouldn’t be late for a meeting. One gentleman who filled out a provisional ballot and was leaving with me said when he arrived at 6:00 am, the doors weren’t even unlocked.

      Sadly, I did wonder if the ‘snafu’ was not quite as innocent as it might be, given the voting location and how contentious the election debate has become. And I wonder how many folks equally inconvenienced will go to the trouble to return — I’m going to have to rearrange my post-work plans to vote, and I’m a relatively fetterless adult.

      • Deb SF says:

        I was the chief Dem at Keister. Between 6 an 7:10, 3 of us took turns going out regularly to give updates as we were getting them from the registrar’s office about the situation. We did offer provisional ballots, and 36 people voted that way over the course of the hour (only 11 provisionals were voted during this time in all other precincts combined). Some chose to wait and voted after 7, some came back, and some never showed. We kept the campaigns informed throughout the hour. It is true that the custodian did not unlock the door at 6AM. And we didn’t go out to check, because every poll book in the precinct (and throughout the entire city) had gone down and we were trying through the first 15 minutes to find out if it was us, and what to do about it. As soon as we discovered that the door had not been unlocked, it was fixed.

    • Deb SF says:

      A better idea would be to have back-up paper pollbooks.

  12. No Brooke, merely being friends with Mark and Suzanne doesn’t automatically mean there was something going on this morning.

    I was going to detail prior instances of overlooking violations of political statutes, actual crimes, here in our local area by Republicans…but many here likely know them.

  13. Joe says:

    Vast right wing conspricy. Same thing happened in SC where 60% of the dems voted for 32 year old unemployed guy living with his dad.

  14. Randall See says:

    I was voter #132 at Spotswood at 9:38 this morning.

  15. Renee says:

    To me, the real “scandal” isn’t the computers going down (we all know that happens), but this:

    “I would have had to write a candidates name on a blank sheet of paper and seal it in a plain envelope”

    They didn’t have backup paper forms at all locations and asked people to trust them not to misplace something as unofficial as blank pieces of paper??

    Glad it sounds like they have it all worked out now. I’m planning to vote this afternoon.

  16. Emmy says:

    I voted at Waterman just a few minutes ago. No lines, no one outside, though I did see some sample ballots under a rock where people are normally passing them out. There was only one other person there voting. No problems with computers and I was offered a paper or electronic ballot (I took paper).

    • Frank J Witt says:

      I’m glad you chose to vote today Emmy. A vote not cast is vote to allow others to decide for you.

      I just left (1pm) Keister and there were 2 people sitting on the bench outside and more than enough polite and appreciative folks inside.

      Really really want who is best for this seat.

  17. I voted at Spotswood about 10:30. Kai was there as were some Wilt supporters. No problems, but mighty few voters also.

  18. David Miller says:

    Most city precincts experienced PHYSICAL equipment malfunction that was mostly resolved by 6am. Anyone involved please add details because I don’t recall the specific timing of machine repairs. I do know that we have documented that there were many provisional ballots cast due to the Poll Book software/ 3 laptop setup (connected through LAN) crashing upon the last step of the Poll Book registration process. The tech staff at each precinct successfully uninstalled the faulty software in waiting for Jenny to arrive to install the software that had been updated. There were no tests of the software done prior to this morning. This was the test run. Scores of voters were forced to write their vote in manually because of the lack of a proper test by the registrars office. These votes will not be included in tonight’s voting reporting. Tomorrow there will be a Caucus meeting at 8 am to determine the validity of each vote. I suggest you arrive to ensure that your vote counts.

    • blondiesez says:

      See, this is why I decided to return rather than depend upon a ‘provisional ballot’. Discouraging, to say the least.

    • Dan says:

      I had to vote using a provisional ballot and I’m thinking of attending the meeting to make sure my vote counts. Does anybody know how long the meeting will last?

      It’s kind of silly that casting a vote can be so complicated. Surely with all of our technical know-how the United States can come up with a way to make voting easy and less prone to glitches.

      • Frank J Witt says:

        Dan says ~Surely with all of our technical know-how the United States can come up with a way to _________ (fill in the blank with anything) seems the smarter we get the less effective we get. Ethanol, oil, coal, wind, car safety (recalls), lead now found in children drink boxes and juices…..

        Sorry for hijacking…..

      • Deb SF says:

        As I understand it, all the people who voted provisionally this morning before 7:15 citywide have been validated as being registered and in the system, and their vote will be counted in the morning.

    • Renee says:

      They didn’t test the machines ahead of time?!?

      • Emmy says:

        That’s what’s bugging me. I don’t see this as some conspiracy to keep people from voting, but rather just lack of preparation. It seems like we always have something stupid happen on election day that could have easily been prevented with some planning and testing.

  19. seth says:

    waterman said they’d seen roughly 500 voters so far….

  20. Joe says:

    I voted, wrote my name in.

  21. Renee says:

    Also, to people that haven’t decided whether to vote yet – remember that in special elections where the turnout is bound to be low, every vote is even more important!

    Even in the major November elections for this seat, the difference has been fewer than 1200 votes before. Also, Harrisonburg City has more registered voters than the part of Rockingham County that will be voting today.

  22. Renee says:

    Here are the results from the Nov 2009 election for this seat:

  23. Somehow that WaPo reporter/blogger did not pick up on the hydro-fracking issue in a period when the BP oil spill is on the news every night.

  24. JGFitzgerald says:

    Three distinct problems:

    First, historically, urban Dems stole votes, Pubs and Southern Democrats suppressed them. Technology since 1970 or so has made it harder to steal them, but suppression efforts will always be with us. It gives one side an edge.

    Second, there are 75-100 people working in a city-wide election. Two are paid staff, and the rest are volunteers and, using the word in its classic sense and not as an insult, amateurs.

    Third, one of those paid staff is the Registrar, who has a history of error, to put it mildly. At some point the volume of error is so great that it no longer matters whether the errors are intentional.

  25. Joe says:

    well, we did vote for a Dem in the last Presidential election, and voted Dems for control of our Federal Legislature back in 06…let we continue to hear them pass the buck when it comes to responbility.

    We also had a Dem in charge of the state the past 4 years…

    I certainly don’t think any party will step up to the plate…it’s simply the nature of Govt.

  26. Deb SF says:

    With respect to this “To be fair I was offered the opportunity to vote provisionally, however Keister didn’t even have the forms. Instead I would have had to write a candidates name on a blank sheet of paper and seal it in a plain envelope in the hopes that it wouldn’t get lost and that someone would count it later.”

    This is simply not true. The voter misunderstood the offer.

    A provisional ballot is always a normal, paper ballot completed as usual by the voter. The ballot is put inside a green provisional envelope, and the voter fills in the front and back with standard data that you’d expect to have to provide. The envelope isn’t opened the next morning until the electoral board determines whether the vote will count (they look for the voter on the city/county rolls, check with the DMV, etc.).

    After we ran out of standard green provisional envelopes, the voter still completed a normal paper ballot. He/she then used a sheet of paper to provide all the information the standard provisional ballot envelope requires. By 6:20 or so, it was clear that the poll book problem wasn’t going to be solved quickly. So, the custodian let us into the school staff office at about 6:30, and by that time we had photocopied a hand-written form we devised with spaces for all the info the standard provisional ballot envelope requires. We were careful, given the cluster f^%k that was going on, and were determined to have every one of those votes count (and, as it turns out, they will). The voter folded his/her ballot with the candidate choice turned inside, wrapped the completed photocopied sheet of paper with the info on it around the ballot, and taped it shut, effectively forming a makeshift envelope. By 7:30, we had standard business envelopes delivered to the poll, and sealed each of these ballots/handmade taped ballot/forms in an proper envelope. We made a list of everyone who voted provisional with their phone numbers, copied it, and gave it to each campaign by about 8:30.(36 total)

    We made another list of each of the voters with their SS#’s for the electoral board, and by late afternoon we were informed that all the voters who did provisional in the AM were valid and their votes would be counted. I delivered all the provisional ballots to the registrars office at about 8PM, along with all the other election materials. NOTHING got lost.

  27. David Miller says:

    I don’t have the energy or will to read through everyone’s comments tonight and so apologize for ignoring all comments since I last had time to post. I would like to take this time to thank everyone who voted today for doing your civic duty, and speaking of Civic Duty

    Thank you to the poll workers like Deb who made the best of a bad situation. They took the brunt of the impact of a mistake not their own. They worked for our benefit and I personally thank them and all they did today. I had no idea how much was really involved in their duties and how hard they worked to enable this process of representation. I am impressed by our city’s fine citizens that worked the polls, you have my admiration and thanks for your work

    • Lowell Fulk says:

      Nicely stated David, and very true.

    • Renee says:

      “Thank you to the poll workers like Deb who made the best of a bad situation. They took the brunt of the impact of a mistake not their own.”

      Yes, I don’t think anyone blames the poll workers for the issues today. Thanks to all of them for their hard work which allows us to have a say in our government.

    • Brooke says:

      Here, here. And ditto Renee – I don’t think anyone is blaming the poll workers. It’s the folks who should have made sure the computer software was installed correctly and was tested before election day.

  28. Ray Schneider says:

    Now that I’ve read Joe Fitzgerald’s actual comments here I’m inclined to take back the things I said at the other post later. I think his remarks are unmotivated and mean spirited. That’s an objective statement since he’s making direct and implied allegations against others without a shred of evidence.

    I take back all those nice things I said about you Joe. I also think Jeff Mellot captured the spirit of your remarks in the newspaper story. I do question the wisdom of printing a story that didn’t have a shred of factual content relative to the animus you expressed against Debbie Logan and Suzanne Obenshain.

  29. JGFitzgerald says:

    As I said previously, Ray, I don’t expect the thefts from 2008 to ever be resolved. But you folks need to stop pretending they never happened.

  30. Ross says:

    Our thoughts and hearts are with your family. God is with you.

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