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D.C. election officials pledge smoother vote, earlier count

District elections officials are promising that tomorrow's election will go much more smoothly election than the last one.

The Sept. 14 primary generated a host of complaints, beginning with polling locations that were late to open and ending with a vote count that lasted well into the wee hours, putting a damper on victory celebrations.

For one thing, the Board of Elections and Ethics is pledging that the parties will be able to get underway at a reasonable hour this time.

Rokey W. Suleman II, executive director of the Board of Elections and Ethics, said today that initial returns should be released by 9:30 p.m., with tallies updated at approximately 30-minute intervals until a final count is completed sometime before midnight.

Suleman said today that, for one, the board has perfected what had been a glitchy process in posting tabulated results to the board's Web site. But more importantly, he said, "significantly improved" training will mean that there will be fewer problems closing the polls once voting ends at 8 p.m.

Enticed by a cash bonus, all 143 precinct captains and a significant proportion of their assistants attended an eight-hour training course intended to supplement the training poll workers received prior to the September primary -- training that many workers and observers found to be inadequate given the new procedures and equipment being introduces.

The training, Suleman said, should also help polls open faster. Also, precincts will now call board headquarters to confirm that they are open in the morning; each polling place's status will be reported on the board's Web site.

Historically, in every mayoral election since 1982, more city voters have voted in the general election than in the primary, which is considered decisive in most races in this overwhelmingly Democratic city. But one indicator of turnout -- the early voting total -- is lagging. While more than 22,000 voted early for the primary, only 12,320 had cast ballots in the two weeks of early voting through Saturday. (Voters can still cast early ballots until 4:45 p.m. today at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th St. NW.)

Suleman fingered the lack of a marquee matchup to drive early turnout. In the primary, which featured the showdown between Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray, there were "two very well-financed campaigns that had great GOTV," he said, referring to "get out the vote" operations. The board, he said, is prepared for a heavy election-day turnout tomorrow.

By Mike DeBonis  | November 1, 2010; 12:58 PM ET
Categories:  DCision 2010, The District  
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