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Live blog: D.C. Primary Day 2010 morning

Christopher Dean Hopkins

Good morning and welcome to Election Day, when members of D.C. political parties will head to the polls to pick nominees for mayor, D.C. Council chairman, U.S. Delegate and an array of other District and ward-level positions (see the Voters Guide for information about all the races and candidates). It's expected to be a nice one. Keep an eye on the D.C. Politics page throughout the day for the latest updates and scenes from the campaigns and polling places.

Latest news: Gray campaign to request longer polling hours at precincts that had problems this morning; Board of Elections responds; Fenty and Gray both have voted (videos); problems held up voting at Sherwood Rec Center.

Scenes: Gray backers at Precinct 113

Speaking of which, here's what you need to know to vote:

Poll Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Poll Location: Find yours
Check your voter registration status

Let us know what you see out there online, by e-mail, Twitter or photograph.

Updates will move to a new thread for the afternoon.

UPDATE 11:49 a.m. Vincent Gray wrapped up his CNN interview outside Backus Middle School in Northeast and was joined by Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) in a part of the city that is critical to his mayoral campaign.

Gray, trailed by a security entourage, was greeted with cheers, hugs, back slaps and requests for photos with voters and volunteers. He expressed deep concern about voters getting turned away from some precincts early in the day because of faulty equipment.

"There's no excuse for this," said Gray, whose campaign has asked for extended hours at the polls.

-- Ann Marimow

UPDATE 11:43 a.m.: As primary voting approaches midday in the District, the strongest criticism of the balloting is coming from Vincent C. Gray's mayoral campaign.

Spokeswoman Traci Hughes said that the campaign has identified 15 precincts with various issues, including late openings, inoperable machines, and unsecured ballots. "To have those types of irregularities is unconscionable," she said.

But Rokey W. Suleman II, executive director of the Board of Elections and Ethics, pushes back on that assessment, explaining that some snags are to be expected in an election where new machines are being debuted.

"Look at any jurisdiction across the country that has implemented new voting equipment, and you will see problems like we are experiencing today," he said. "Whenever you have new polling equipment, it's a challenge to train all of the poll workers. ... Overall, the problems have been small. We've had some machine issues. We've had some training issues. These are the hiccups I said would occur. The great majority of the city seems to be running smoothly."

Suleman said that to his knowledge only two precincts, 105 and 82, opened late. As for the equipment issues, he noted that there were backups in place for a variety of scenarios. If a touch-screen machine isn't working, voters can cast paper ballots. If paper-ballot scanners aren't working, voters can deposit their ballots in a secure lockbox and they will be scanned later under the eyes of poll watchers. Several precincts have experienced problems with electronic pollbooks used for provisional ballots, but Suleman says there is a paper backup in place.

The problem, he admits, is that not all of the 1,200 city pollworkers might be up to speed on the procedures.

"Reports from people that aren't the Board of Elections tend to be exaggerated," Suleman said, doubting one Adrian Fenty pollwatcher's estimate from Precinct 82 in Ward 6. "I find it hard to believe that there were 70 people turned away."

-- Mike DeBonis

UPDATE 11:30 a.m.: Council member Mary M. Cheh, a Democrat who represents Ward 3 in Upper Northwest, said turnout had been surprisingly light in her ward.

"Some people are saying its because of all this early voting, but it seems light even for that," said Cheh.

But at Janney School in Tenleytown, a steady flow of voters are showing up to cast ballots.

Election officials said 282 votes had been cast as of 11 a.m. Chris Shaw, a poll worker, said the turnout seemed "about normal" for a mayor's race.

-- Tim Craig

UPDATE 11:26 a.m.: Some videos from the mayoral candidates' final hours of campaigning:

Fenty casts his vote:

Gray casts his vote:

Fenty on MSNBC's "Morning Joe":

UPDATE 10:48 a.m. Sean Madigan, spokesman for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's campaign, would not say whether the mayor would oppose or join a request by the campaign of challenger Vincent C. Gray to extend voting hours Tuesday evening at some precincts that had problems.

"Right now we are focused 100 percent on getting our supporters to the polls," Madigan said in an e-mail.

--Nikita Stewart

UPDATE 10:34 a.m.: About a dozen voters who cast ballots in Ward 7 said they had seen commercials aimed at clearing up confusion about which Michael Brown was running for an at-large seat against incumbent D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, and had voted for Mendelson.

One Fort Dupont resident, who gave only her first initial and last name, M. Grier, 22, said she thought she was voting for Council member Michael A. Brown, who is not up for reelection this year.

Grier said she saw Council member Brown speak at a hearing in June on Channel 13. "I said, 'Okay, I care for the way he is going with this.' " She could not recall the specific issue he had been discussing. When told that the Michael Brown on the ballot is not the man she saw on television, she said the wrong Brown "probably just got my vote."

-- Annys Shin

UPDATE 10:30 a.m. Shortly after 10 a.m., 354 voters already had cast paper ballots at Precinct 39 at Bell Multicultural High School in Columbia Heights.

Poll worker James Gwyn, who has been working the polls for nearly a decade, said the turnout was higher than usual for a mayor's race. "Still, there was nothing like Obama," he said, referring to the 2008 presidential election.

Council member Jim Graham, who is running for reelection against Democrats Jeff Smith and Bryan Weaver, said turnout overall in Ward 1 appeared light to him. Graham arrived without fanfare in his Volkswagen bug.

Council member Phil Mendelson, who has found his at-large seat in danger of voters' confusion over the identity of challenger shadow Sen. Michael Brown, said voters are now understanding that Brown is not Michael A.
Brown, his fellow council member.

"The question, is how many (voters)?" he said in a brief interview.

-- Nikita Stewart

UPDATE 10:25 a.m. Jerome Brocks put out his green folding chair on the sidewalk outside the Senior Wellness Center just off Alabama Avenue SE at 6 30 a.m. He wore a blue T-shirt in support of D.C. Council Chairman candidate Kwame Brown, for whom he was campaigning that morning.

While he is also a Gray supporter, he kept his distance from a clutch of Gray volunteers who were sharing a table. Four years ago, the same folks supported Linda Cropp in her bid to be mayor, and Brocks was the lone Fenty supporter.

"I had to put up with all these guys," he said, of the band in blue. Four years, however, and several rounds of teacher layoffs, turned Brocks -- a 35-year veteran DCPS teacher who retired in June -- against Fenty.

"I wouldn't vote for Adrian Fenty -- not even for dog catcher," he said. "I understand change. If we didn't have change we wouldn't have this wonderful president in the White House. But in change, you don't just kick people out and don't say even 'thank you.' All those teachers weren't bad teachers."

Among the scrum of news photographers outside Precinct 113 was Lateef Mangum, former official photographer to Mayor Anthony Williams, now a supporter of Gray.

Mangum captured Williams often behind a podium, but also in private, including the moment on Sept. 11, 2001, just after Williams was told a plane had struck the World Trade Center. Mangum still had a job when Fenty arrived, but he did not last long after the mayor asked to have a photo of he and President Obama blown up to poster size to be displayed on Inauguration Day.

When Mangum told the mayor the digital photo was not of sufficient quality to be blown up to that large a size, the mayor got snippy, Mangum recalled. "He said, 'Don't tell me what I can't do. I'll do it myself.' "

A highly pixelated version soon appeared at Ben's Chili Bowl, and Mangum was on his own.

Even before Gray announced his candidacy, Mangum went to him and offered to help.

"Today, I'm working for myself. Tomorrow, who knows," he said with a smile, his unspoken hope being a chance to document a new administration.

As he finished shooting Gray voting, he said he was going to the mayor's precinct to grab pictures of the mayor voting. But before he went, he planned on changing into a Gray T-shirt.

-- Annys Shin

UPDATE 10:15 a.m. D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray's campaign for mayor likely will request that the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics extend hours past 8 p.m. at several polling sites that experienced problems with equipment or delayed opening times this morning.

Mo Elleithee, a Gray strategist, said campaign officials currently are evaluating "the depth of the problem and how widespread" their request needs to be.

"If a particular precinct had a problem where people were turned away, then they are going to ask for an extension for the same time period that the problem existed," Elleithee said.

The campaign will first ask the elections board to voluntarily grant an extension in poll hours in certain precincts where problems were reported. If the board refuses, campaign lawyers could take the matter to D.C. Superior Court.

Elleithee said the campaign likely would not be requesting a citywide extension in polling hours. "You tailor your remedy to where it needs to be, where a precinct had trouble opening," he said.

The Board of Elections's two members, Togo D. West Jr. and Charles R. Lowery, would have to convene to approve an extension of hours. They are expected to arrive at board headquarters in mid-afternoon.

-- Tim Craig

UPDATE 10:12 a.m. The polls had been open for an our at the new gleaming Anacostia Library and the line to vote was moving at a steady clip. Several campaign workers milled about hawking glossy cards touting their candidate. A pretty routine start to Election Day -- except for Miles Johnson, 32, who was making history.

"First time voting," he said, smiling as if he was holding onto a secret. The secret was that he wasn't saying who he voted for on any of the races. But that wasn't the point.

"I don't know, this is the first time it really clicked for me, that it's a responsibility," he said. "I followed the candidates this year like I follow the Redskins. It was important."

He held his baby daughter Shantell, 2, in one arm. "One thing I can say is that I was paying attention to the different candidates. One's a new guy. Another's an older one. Then there's one in the middle, in terms of age. It was balanced. It was fair."

A truck with a bull horn passed by on Good Hope Road a few minutes later.

"Fenty's Got to Go!" a voice blared.

"I could have done without the insults, but it's cool," he said. "I can get used to it."

-- Chris L. Jenkins

UPDATE 10:06 a.m.: The Vincent C. Gray campaign is strongly criticizing polling problems at Precinct 105, located at the Harris School in Ward 7's Marshall Heights neighborhood. The campaign claims voters were turned away, calling the development "absolutely deplorable" in a tweet.

Rokey W. Suleman, executive director of the Board of Elections and Ethics, said that two problems combined to cause issues at the precinct: Poll workers found the building locked this morning, leading to a late start-up, and a discrepancy between documentation given to the workers and the seals on the polling site's optical ballot scanner.

A form given to pollworkers explained that each scanner should have three wire seals, but officials decided to place only two seals on each machine. (The third seal, for a door covering a printer output, was determined to be unnecessary.)

Only one other polling place opened late, because of an equipment problem, Suleman said. Other polling places opened to voters on time but had issues starting up machines.

Suleman said that turnout this morning appeared to be light, saying that the board has received few reports of long lines. More than 22,000 voters had cast ballots already under the city's new early-voting law.

-- Mike DeBonis

UPDATE 9:52 a.m.: "Their new, improved system -- it may be new, but it certainly is not improved," said Michael Martin, who finally voted on his third attempt this morning.

Michael and Susan Martin lined up before 7 a.m. in front of Ward 6's Sherwood Recreation Center, voting site for the troubled 82nd precinct.

An employee of the center told the 30 people in line that neither the paper nor electronic ballots were working. Poll workers told them to go to neighboring precincts to vote.

They arrived with about 15 people from the center to the polling place at 6th and K streets NE.

The Martins said they filled out lots of forms over the next hour to get a special ballot, but then had an issue with an electronic registration process they were asked to complete.

By then, about two hours in, they were told to go back to Sherwood, where voting took about one minute, Michael Martin said.

"If you have something electric you'd think there would be a paper backup," he said.

Susan Martin said she wondered how the delays would affect the precinct's results, given that half the people they were waiting in line with didn't come back.

A Fenty campaign volunteer said some 75 people were turned away from the precinct this morning.

-- Christy Goodman

UPDATE 9:29 a.m.: After dropping off his twin sons at Lafayette Elementary School in Chevy Chase, Fenty stood outside for an interview Tuesday morning with CNN's John King.

Fenty, who was joined by his wife, Michelle, said the campaign was "peaking at the right time."

"Even though there are still a lot of unresolved issues in the city, there still is a great amount of support and excitement about the progress we've made in the city," he said.

-- Ann Marimow

UPDATE 9:18 a.m.: Two hours into voting, city elections officials report that they have dealt with scattered issues, but that all 143 polling sites now have operating machines.

"Everything's up and running," said Rokey W. Suleman II, executive director of the Board of Elections and Ethics.

At several precincts, workers charged with opening polling sites were confused by the seals on machines that scan optical ballots, he said. At Precinct 105, at the Harris School in Marshall Heights, balloting was delayed because poll workers thought the machines -- which are new this year -- did not have seals. In fact, Rokey says, the seals were intact.

"It's completely different, and people don't know what they're looking at," Suleman said. "It's just what happens when you roll out new equipment."

Shortly after 7 a.m., Suleman bolted from board headquarters downtown to pursue a more serious report -- that workers weren't being allowed inside the Precinct 38 polling site at Cesar Chavez charter school in Columbia Heights

Suleman, who is assigned a police escort, said he "flew" up to the school, but found the site operating as planned.

-- Mike DeBonis

UPDATE 9:09 a.m.: Joseph Mullins, the precinct captain for Fenty's campaign, said poll workers were not to blame for this morning's issues at the 82nd precinct in northeast.

"This is a total lie," he said. "There was no seal" on the paper-ballot scanning machine.

Board of Elections precinct captain Michael Cole said he told officials last night that there was no seal.

Mullins said he was trained by the Fenty campaign to write down the serial numbers from the machines to ensure there is no vote tampering, but could not. "There was no number for me to write down," Mullins said. "there was no seal at all."

He said Board of Elections Executive Director Rokey Suleman was "putting on this picture like everything is fine," which was untrue.

Suleman maintains that the seal was on the machine. The seals are different from the old machines, he said, and the workers were not familiar with them.

-- Christy Goodman

UPDATE 9:01 a.m.:D.C. Council member Kwame Brown (D-At Large) walked into the Senior Wellness Center off Alabama Avenue SE just after 7 a.m. with his wife and two children. With recent polls indicating he is likely to win his bid to replace Vincent C. Gray as Council Chair despite revelations that his personal finances are a mess, Brown was upbeat and slightly frenetic.

"This is one of the best neighborhoods," he said, stopping to shake hands and steer his kids down the hallway into the line for voting. "We love the people. The people will decide today. We feel good."

"We've been been humbled," he added. "We've run a positive campaign focused on real issues..."

Then, realizing the line was not moving, he interjected, "Hey! What's going on here? Is the machine broken?"

Before he could get an answer, a man in line behind him asked how he was doing.

"I woke up this morning, family woke up this morning. I'm blessed," he said.

Asked about the possibility of working with a Gray administration, Brown said: "We joined the Council together. He lives around the corner. I think he would do a phenomenal job."

As photographers leaned in for close ups, his daughter Lauren, 9, flashed a camera-ready smile. "I have three words," she said. "Daddy's going to win -- wait, four words!"

"I think you have you have to take this off," Brown said, as he peeled a Kwame Brown sticker off her shirt.

He looked over at his son Kwame, 7, who sat slouched in a chair. "He's trying to not go to school today."

Switching back from dad mode to pol, Brown said "it's not about the differences we share but what we have in common and moving forward."

-- Annys Shin

UPDATE 8:38 a.m.: Holding 20-month-old daughter Aerin, mayor Adrian M. Fenty voted Tuesday morning after arriving with his daughter, twin sons Andrew and Matthew and wife Michelle Fenty -- a rare sight for a mayor who has shielded his family from the spotlight.

Fenty appeared relaxed as he, his family and friend Keith Lomax emerged from a black Lincoln Navigator.

The twins wore matching outfits -- khakis and blue dress shirts -- while Michelle Fenty and daughter coordinated in pink, Michelle in a clingy sheath, Aerin in pink with white lace over it.

Aerin clutched a Harrod's novelty bag that held a sippy cup and stuffed animal and clutched her father even tighter as cameras captured the moment.

Inside Sharpe Health School, where they voted, Mayor Fenty explained the positions on the ballot to one of his sons -- after voting, Fenty was scheduled to drop them off at Lafayette Elementary School.

He greeted voters and poll workers warmly. He told supporters that he was running "for continued effective leadership and continued reform."

He joined supporters in a huddle. "Let's get it in," he said. They yelled "one, two, three ... Fenty!"

-- Nikita Stewart

UPDATE 8:31 a.m.: Mayoral candidate Vincent C. Gray emerged from a black SUV to a small crowd of supporters, who immediately told him about problems with the touch-screen voting machine inside that had delayed the start of voting by 20 minutes. Gray looked concerned. "That's not going to deter us," one of his supporters said.

Gray stopped to talk with reporters. "This may be one of the most important elections in the history of the city," he said. "The city needs to be brought together."

Asked about his front-runner status, Gray said the polls have been "all over the place" and that "we haven't paid a lot of attention to that."

As Gray walked in to the room where voting was taking place, he was enveloped in a bear hug by Council member Kwame Brown (D-At Large), who is running against former Council member Vincent Orange to succeed Gray as D.C. Council chairman.

Both men then stood at separate booths to fill out paper ballots. Brown had help from his son, Kwame, and daughter, Lauren.

Finished, Gray straightened up and said, "I voted for Gray."

After handing his ballot over to be scanned, he stopped to talk to Brown's young son.

"Are you voting today? Gray asked.

He then turned to leave, shaking hands as he went.

His next stop is St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, Precinct 110, the third-largest precinct in the city and one of about 30 he said he planned to stop by today.

"We have to assume there are still undecided voters out there," he said. "One likes to think people pay attention to these things 24-7, but they don't."

"I was undecided when I got here," he joked. "I think Vincent Gray is the best candidate. I've known him all my life. He has a very colorful background."

-- Annys Shin

UPDATE 8:20 a.m.: Shortly after 8 a.m., Board of Elections Executive Director Rokey Suleman swooped into the 82nd Precinct at Sherwood Recreation Center and had all the machines up and running.

"Poll workers weren't familiar with the equipment and didn't follow procedures to open," Suleman said. "We've got it under control."

Precinct captain Michael Coles said there was no seal on the paper ballot scanning machine, but according to Suleman the machine "did have a seal, but a poll worker did not follow proper procedures at all."

About 20 ballots from the first hour of voting that were stored in an auxiliary ballot box were being scanned in by poll workers.

"Everything else seems to be going very, very well," Suleman said.

-- Christy Goodman

UPDATE 8:14 a.m.: Polls were set to open at 7 a.m. today in the District, and the vast majority were up and running on time, elections officials said. But "spotty issues" delayed voting in a handful of precincts.

At Precinct 82, at Sherwood Rec Center in Ward 6, a "training issue"
delayed the startup of voting equipment, said Paul Stenbjorn, the chief technology officer for the Board of Elections and Ethics.

Due to a missing seal on a paper ballot box and other technical issues, the stream of early morning voters at the 82nd precinct are casting their votes on paper ballots only.

Precinct captain Michael Coles said "we are trying to get up and running."

A handful of other precincts reported problems logging into an electronic poll book system, which is used by voters who have just registered to vote or who for some other reason are not already listed in the regular voting system.

The log-in problems could delay voting for those citizens, officials said.

Under a mandate from the D.C. Council, the elections board replaced its electronic touch-screen and optical-scan paper ballot machines this year and has had to rush to train some 1,800 poll workers.

Stenbjorn said training issues are the biggest concern of the moment. "It's people not familiar with the new equipment," he said.

-- Michael DeBonis and Christy Goodman

UPDATE 7:35 a.m.: After a snag with one of the new touch screen voting machines that delayed the start of voting by nearly 20 minutes, Joyce Robinson cast the first ballot at Vincent Gray's precinct in Ward 7 -- for his opponent, Mayor Adrian Fenty. Robinson, 72, arrived at 6:45 a.m. and stood and waited with about a dozen others inside the Senior Wellness Center just off Alabama Avenue SE as poll workers and an official from the Board of Elections fussed in front of a voting machine.

"Looks bad for Mr. Gray," Robinson quipped about the delay.

"Looks bad for Mr. Fenty!" said Mary Ross, a Gray supporter in line behind Robinson.

Robinson said she believes that Fenty "has done a pretty good job, especially with the schools." She said she has noticed improvements at the schools attended by her grandchildren and that Chancellor Michelle Rhee "listens to people." Robinson, who also voted for Fenty four years ago, lives just over the line in Ward 8, and said Fenty has done a lot for her ward. As a Fenty supporter deep in Gray territory, she said she doesn't talk politics much with neighbors. And a Fenty sign that she put up in her yard lasted just 24 hours before it was stolen.

-- Annys Shin

The question of the day: How did Fenty get in the pickle of trailing challenger Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray in polls taken before the Democratic primary?

Fenty blamed "tough decision-making" and "special interests."

"When you make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs," he said.

But the nationally televised morning show folks didn't give the mayor a pass. What about African Americans who are dissatisfied?

Fenty said he's part of a "newer breed of politician" who might have left some residents behind with his governing style and policy decisions.

He said another four years with a Fenty administration would include "a lot of connecting" and "a lot of healing" with the city's black community.

-- Nikita Stewart

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  September 14, 2010; 11:49 AM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Fenty ends campaign with go-go music
Next: Live blog: D.C. Primary Day 2010 afternoon -- More gift-card complaints

Comments

“Magnum still had a job when Fenty arrived, but he did not last long after the mayor asked to have a photo of he and President Obama blown up to poster size to be displayed on Inauguration Day.

When Magnum told the mayor the digital photo was not of sufficient quality to be blown up to that large a size, the mayor got snippy, Magnum recalled. "He said, 'Don't tell me what I can't do. I'll do it myself.'

A highly pixelated version soon appeared at Ben's Chili Bowl, and Magnum was on his own.”

What a stellar example of why I started calling him Adrian “the photo-ho” Fenty.

His sole interest is self-aggrandizement -- not the welfare of D.C. citizens. I voted early for Vincent Gray.

Posted by: sheridaw | September 14, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

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