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Editorial: How can the District justify taking so long to report election results?

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AT 9:36 p.m. Tuesday, we called the spokeswoman at the D.C. Board of Elections to inquire after the problem that had led to zero reported results, more than an hour and a half after the polls closed in an election in which turnout was reported to be historically low.

“There’s no problem,” Tamara L. Robinson assured us.

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That no one at the elections board seemed to think an utter lack of any information in this closely watched election was an issue suggests there really is a problem.

“Totally, completely unacceptable” was the apt characterization from one exasperated commenter on Twitter on Tuesday night. “These election results are like watching a pigment bearing vitreous coating gradually diminish in moisture content,” wrote another. A third wrote, “How many years and how many election cycles will @DCBOEE vote tabulation operation be allowed to continue embarrassing our city?” And, “Are two people counting all of the votes?” was a query that likely occurred to a lot of people constantly hitting the refresh button on their browser in the vain hope of seeing some returns.

According to Ms. Robinson, “about a dozen people” were counting the returns. No, she couldn’t really say why the early vote tally hadn’t been done yet. But everyone was working hard, she said, and there would be results “as soon as we can,” although she couldn’t provide an estimate. We don’t mean to pile on to Ms. Robinson. We realize that being spokeswoman has its limitations and other people in the agency were responsible for the unacceptable lag in providing timely returns.

It really shouldn’t be too much to expect that an agency whose job is to tabulate and report results will do so in a more expeditious manner. More than two hours after polls closed, only a few thousand votes had been tabulated and reported. It’s not the kind of performance to inspire confidence in the democratic process. Whoever the winners of Tuesday’s contests for mayor and council turn out to be, here’s one item for their agenda: Examine the operations of elections officials.

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