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Grebien seeks analysis of voting glitches

November 23, 2012

PAWTUCKET — Citing the large number of complaints from residents about problems on election day, Mayor Donald Grebien has asked the Board of Canvassers to provide a detailed report of what went wrong and how to prevent such issues in the future.
In a letter sent three days after the Nov. 6 election to Board of Canvassers Chairperson Charlotte Tavares, Grebien began by highly commending the hard work done by her and the rest of the board, registrar Ken McGill, and the poll workers under their supervision.
However, the mayor also wrote that it is important to fully assess the “lessons learned” from the various problems that came up so they can be prevented or dealt with in the most effective way possible should something similar arise again.
Grebien said it was his understanding, based on the number of calls his office received as well as from conversations he had with residents while making the rounds on Election Day, there were many glitches that created voter frustrations. Among those he cited:
• Voting machines jammed virtually throughout the city, particularly due to feeding more than one ballot at a time into the Eagle machines
• Inadequate technical help was provided for the scope of the city's issues, including only two “techs” and no response when more were requested
• Confusion about when one of the polling sites opened late (although poll workers arrived in a timely manner)
• Voting machines went down at Fallon School for approximately six hours, causing inconvenience to voters and requiring poll workers to remain until almost midnight
• Problems at Kennedy Manor, with no tech help available, prevented a final tally there, requiring materials to be sent to the Board of Elections to complete and verify the count
• Geneva Plaza was overwhelmed by the voter turnout, requiring additional lines to be improvised
• An inadequate amount of supplies, including voting booths, was sent by the Board of Elections
• The voting machines themselves, around 20 years old, may be outdated and nearing the end of their useful life.
Grebien noted that “given the size and scope of this election in a presidential year, along with added issues such as the recent redistricting as well as changes in some local polling sites, it is to be expected that not everything will go as smoothly as we all would wish. It remains our firm objective, however, to provide as smooth, efficient and accurate a voting experience as possible for our voters, including anticipating, as much as possible, where problems might arise and either preventing them proactively or resolving problems as quickly as possible with minimal interruption of the voting process.”
Accordingly, Grebein said, he is requesting that the Board of Canvassers assemble a report “detailing what and where things went off track and may have affected conduct of an optimal voting process.” He added, “please address the items noted above as well as any others which you may have become aware.”
Grebien also asked Tavares and the board to specify what, in their opinion, could be done to prevent similar occurrences in the future and how the city's communication with the state Board of Elections could be improved so that the city receives the timely assistance and adequate materials it requires.
Grebien added that the the board's opinion of the operating conditions of the voting machines would also be valuable should the issue of their potential replacement arise before the General Assembly in the upcoming legislative session.
Charlotte Tavares had previously told The Times that the age and condition of the voting machines, many of which are around 20 years old, caused many of the Election Day problems as the machines could not keep up with the amount of paperwork being fed into them. She added, however, that new machines would have to be approved by the General Assembly.
As to the mayor's call for a report, city registrar Ken McGill said that he and the Board of Canvassers routinely get together after every election and discuss what took place and any corrective action that is necessary. He said there is a meeting scheduled in January for such a discussion.
Late last week, McGill said there were seven write-in ballots from the Cottage Street poll location that could not be accounted for and the board was checking with the state Board of Elections to see if they had been inadvertently brought there.
Robert Kando, executive director of the state Board of Elections, said Wednesday that the missing write-in ballots, which are counted locally and not at the state Board of Elections headquarters, were eventually found by the Pawtucket Board of Canvassers, but said he did not know the outcome. He added that the board had certified all of the elections on Tuesday.
One of the city's unions had mounted a campaign supporting that City Councilor Lorenzo Tetreault be written in as mayor as a protest to Mayor Donald Grebien's action to privatize the city-run trash and recycling services. As of last week and with the seven missing ballots still to be counted, Tetreault had received 681 votes out of the total 1,281 write-ins cast. In the Nov. 6 election, Grebien received 18,959 votes.
The outcome of the final write-in tally for Tetreault could not be learned on Wednesday.
Members of Local 1012 have indicated their desire to mount a recall campaign to oust Grebien next spring. This would require getting 10 percent of the registered voters from the last election—about 2,200 signatures—to sign a recall petition. According to city ordinances, any recall effort could not take place until three months into the start of the mayor's next term, which would be next April.


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