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Suffolk voters incorrectly assigned

Nearly 180 residences in Suffolk were incorrectly assigned to the wrong congressional district in the state’s voter system, according to the Department of Elections.

The 176 residences in Suffolk were the majority of more than 260 residences assigned to the wrong congressional district throughout the state.

According to a presentation given by Commissioner of the Department of Elections Christopher Piper on June 19 to the State Board of Elections, many of the cases were “edge cases,” which means that a majority of incorrectly assigned voters were on the edge of two different congressional districts.

Suffolk’s voters were on the edge of the 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts.

The Department of Elections took a closer look at the issue after the 2017 House of Delegates elections, when it was discovered some Fredericksburg voters were incorrectly placed in the 88th District when they should have been in the 28th District.

Suffolk General Registrar Susan Saunders directed all questions to the Department of Elections, and the Department of Elections spokeswoman redirected locality specific questions back to Saunders.

Therefore, it was not immediately clear how many voters were impacted at the 176 Suffolk addresses, whether voters will be notified and receive new voter cards or if the error will be corrected before the November mid-term elections.

Human error caused the 176 residences to be incorrectly assigned, according to Piper’s presentation.

The Department of Elections utilizes a computer system, VERIS, to correctly place voters in the appropriate district, but when a split — when a house could be in two different districts — occurs, a human makes the decision, not a computer.

“Human error may occur which impacts voter district association,” according to Piper’s presentation.

Along with human error, local boundary lines can pose a problem in deciding what voting district someone is a part of.

Piper’s presentation laid out that the current Code of Virginia states that if your property is split by the line, then a voter is “deemed to reside in the location of his bedroom or usual sleeping area.”

Another problem raised in Piper’s presentation was the lack of any one single entity having oversight to modify local election district lines, but the Department of Elections has pledged to work with legislature and localities to improve the process, according to the presentation.

“Using limited resources available, the Department provided potential mis-assigned addresses for the locality to review,” Department of Elections spokeswoman Andrea Gaines said.