November 17, 2022
The Honorable Anthony Albence
Commissioner, Department of Elections
905 S. Governors Avenue Ste 170
Dover, Delaware 19901
Dear Commissioner Albence,
The general election which was held on November 8, 2002, was flawed in ways Delaware has never experienced, and should never experience again.
The first issue of the day arose as polls opened and voters could not get into the polling location at Pulaski school. The doors were locked. It was reported the site did not open timely because the machines were locked and election officials on site were not able to unlock them. An election official on site implied voters were at the wrong entrance. At least one voter has reported to me that that is incorrect. They were at the correct location and the polling location opened about an hour late.
There were also significant problems with the alignment of the machines at multiple places, several of which had consistent problems. In one instance, it was reported the election officials on site did not want to shut the machines down to align them because there were lines waiting to vote. As I texted you that day, the problem needed to be corrected because otherwise votes might not be properly recorded. When I first notified you of problems at Redding Community Center and Laurel Elementary School, you advised you were addressing the problems. Subsequently, I reported problems at McVey, Keene and Glasgow schools. You advised staff was deployed and the machines were working properly.
I later sent a text to you that voters at the polling location at Blackbird Forest Road were getting an error message when they hit the “Vote” button. The election official on site there exclaimed, “Oh, God. That’s been happening all morning.” Clearly the machines were not operating properly.
There were numerous complaints about the machines not allowing the voter to select the candidate of their choice. One voter reported that the election official on site pushed the button for the opponent of the candidate the voter wanted to select then told them to “now push the button for your candidate”. It then did work. Another, when they asked for help, had an on-site election official reach into the booth, hit “Quit” (scaring the voter that they would not get to vote at all) and tell them to start over again. Again, fortunately, the machine did then properly register their selection. Upon inquiry, we were informed that the buttons get oily or dirty from use, and have to be cleaned regularly or they don’t work properly.
But, of all the problems voters encountered on Election Day, the worst was being told their polling location had run out of ballots and they should leave. Several voters at McKean were told they could not vote there because they had no ballots, so they asked where they could vote. They were told that they could not vote anywhere else and then they were told to leave the polling location. Beginning at shortly after 5 o’clock, I started receiving calls and forwarding information to you about polling locations that had no ballots. Waters Elementary, the Presbyterian Church on 202, Keene, McVey, Glasgow, Blackbird Community Center, Lombardy, Handby, St. George’s, Good Shepherd and another location in Middletown (the precise location not specified by the caller) were all reported to you to have run out of ballots. Voters were forced to wait in line for as long as an hour, and many reported that a number of individuals left without voting. Some of those who left without voting, contacted us as well to complain. We encouraged them to return to their polling location and try to vote and if they were turned away because the polls were closed at that time, to immediately contact us again.
In order to alert the public, we contacted the media and put out on our media that people should remain at the polling locations and insist on being able to vote. But we certainly could not reach everyone or identify everyone who left. Some voters were simply disenfranchised because the Department of Elections did not do its job.
This was an incredible failure on the part of the Department of Elections, and particularly, the New Castle County directors. Turnout was not as high as it was in 2018 or 2020, so there should never have been an issue with a polling location not having enough ballots to handle turnout expectations. Once a single polling location had run out of ballots or reported it was running low, New Castle County directors should have contacted every polling location to determine if they had sufficient ballots. Polling staff should have been instructed to use provisional ballots to allow those who were in attendance at the polling location to actually record their vote. Staff at polling locations should have been trained to recognize when they were getting low and to call for more, although they shouldn’t have had to make that call if they had been properly supported by the New Castle County office.
The time period from 5 to 8 PM is usually a heavy voting time because people vote on the way home from work or as a family after dinner. To run out of ballots at that time affected a number of people and there was no alternative plan in place. While we should never have been in the position of lacking ballots at a polling location, why was there no alternative plan in place in that event? Why were election officials on site not told to use provisional ballots instead of turning people away?
At a time when all voters are of a heightened awareness with regard to the integrity of our elections, it would seem extra care should and would have been taken to assure elections in Delaware took place without the irregularities that occurred. I regret that the Department of Elections, and in particular the New Castle County leadership, did not plan effectively, train effectively, oversee properly and respond appropriately when problems occurred. I believe we are left with no recourse other than to call for the resignation, at least, of the Director and Deputy Director in New Castle County.
I don’t believe the significance of these failures can be overstated. Citizens presented themselves to vote at their assigned polling location and were turned away. That is unprecedented and unacceptable. Voters were unable to use the machines to record their vote without a great deal of difficulty, and those issues they experienced created doubt about the accuracy of the results that were reported.
This is not a partisan issue. Regardless of party affiliation, voters were denied their right to vote. There should be serious reflection on the way this election was conducted by the Department. I have, and do, call on the General Assembly to undertake an inquiry into what happened and take steps to assure this does not happen again.
I also would ask that you provide a list of all locations where the site ran out of ballots. Please let me know if you are going to require me to file a FOIA to get that information.
M. Jane Brady, Chair
Delaware Republican Party.