As Precinct 67 Captain Andrew Frazier sits at an entrance table of the polling room in Bunker Hill Elementary School, the lights flicker. A man then tells him that there is flooding outside by the voting entrances. Frazier goes outside to see what is going on. He learns that a water main break has caused flooding in the school’s parking lot and along the 14th Street and Michigan Avenue Northeast side of the building.
“Beginning at approximately 2:45, there was a power surge that caused the touch screen [ballots] to be inoperative,” Frazier said.
Brought on by the flooding, the power surge halted electronic voting, prompting the precinct to use only paper ballots and count them by hand.
“The M100 that scans each paper ballot is currently running on battery, but we will use auxiliary power,” Frazier said.
Rokey Suleman, executive director of the D.C. Board of Elections, was at the scene as well.
“Right now the school doesn’t have power, but the voting area is still lighted,” Suleman said. The D.C. Fire Department shut off power in the rest of the building to prevent an electrical haphazard. Deliveries were arranged for generators, extra voting equipment and lights for the poll location, Suleman said.
A main focus of the afternoon was the safety of the students who were preparing to end their school day.
“I’m just concerned about the children,” said poll worker Janice Hale. “Their parents are at work; their feet get wet. But children love water, seems like fun for them.”
Nevertheless, there was a team effort to keep the children out of harm’s way. Parents, poll workers and campaign volunteers could be seen ushering students along as they left school.
“I’m so proud of how everyone came together,” Pressley Donnal, Bunker Hill principal, said. “Everyone forgot about elections and worked to get the children to safety.”
“And guess what, voting is still going on,” Donnal added.
Voters and poll workers were not deterred by the flooding or electricity outage.
For resident Keith Corbin, however, the flooding was a testament to a pressing issue that he said officials should address.
“They wonder why we keep buying spring water. If you look out here, I see why. This isn’t good,” Corbin said. “Lead is going into the pipe system instead of being strained out. This is what we actually use to wash our clothes with.”
Ruth Marshall, a volunteer for Democratic mayoral candidate Vince Gray, had been at Bunker Hill since 9:30 a.m.
A few neighbors said that there had been water main problems for the past three days, Marshall said.
The vote must still be counted.
“People want to vote,” Marshall said. “They’re going to find a way to vote. It’s just a minor setback. We’ve been through worst than this in trying to vote.”
By 4:30 p.m., flooding at the site slackened and the total counted number of votes was 674. The fire department and Suleman were still at the scene. Poll workers continued to get voters in and out smoothly.
“The vote continues,” Frazier said.