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Ballot machine jam briefly stalls operations at Loudoun County polling site

The precinct chief said 36 ballots were placed into an emergency ballot box until the voting machine was working again.

LEESBURG, Va. — There was a brief hiccup at a polling location in Loudoun County Tuesday after a ballot machine underwent technical issues. The problem frustrated several voters at Harper Park Middle School in Leesburg who either had to wait or return to cast their votes in person. 

River Creek Precinct Chief Audrey Price suspects one of the ballots got wet from a voter who came in from the rain around 11:30 a.m.

"We had a situation that is not uncommon when it is raining," Price said. "A voter put his ballot into the voter box and then it caused the voter box to jam. We know that because when you first approach the ballot box, it's green. It's red while scanning and it comes back green. We never did get a green light."

Price paused putting ballots into the box while getting in contact with county officials. Even though the ballot in question counted, the machine was no longer accepting any other ballots. By then 36 ballots were placed into an emergency ballot box in the back of the machine. 

The process required a reboot and an "initialization cycle" that required an additional report. Price gave the roughly 50 voters in the room the option to wait until the voting box restarted or return before polls closed at 7 p.m.

Loudoun County resident Mike Kipp chose to come back, but not without a feeling of slight concern.

"There's been a lot of people talking about whether they really trust some of the systems in place and I think people just want to feel comfortable," Kipp said. "It just seems like such an odd coincidence because I've voted here for many years and it's never been a problem."

The Republican National Committee sent a poll watcher, who is required to have proper credentials and a signed letter from an authorized member, to be a witness to the next steps of the protocol. As the precinct chief, Price had access to the emergency ballot box. She opened the box, counted the ballots and placed each one into the ballot machine once it was working again. Watching her every move were the RNC poll watcher and two election officers.

"We must have an election officer present from each party throughout that entire process, so we had a representative from the Democratic Party and the Republican Party," Price added. "I assure you that we followed the law and it was important that every vote was cast."

Voters questioned why they could not cast their ballot at a different precinct located in the same school. Price said legally residents are required to vote at the precinct where they are registered.

The Virginia Department of Elections said Loudoun County also had its phones offline in the morning but said it was eventually resolved. 

Other counties experienced issues including an elementary school in Henrico County experiencing a late start. Scanners were also jammed. 

A school in Chesterfield County also had a power outage. 

RELATED: Poll Watchers: Who they are and what they do

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