The issue preventing app from tracking some Virginia ballots

Posted at 5:19 PM, Oct 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-12 18:45:18-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The Virginia State Board of Elections said it is aware of an issue that prevents some people from tracking the status of their mail-in ballots online.

It was an issue that a Henrico County mother and son told CBS 6 they had experienced.

Jeffrey Duszak said he and his mother, Barbara, decided to vote by mail when early voting began earlier this year.

"Decided it was best thing to do, as opposed to risking transmission of coronavirus by going to the in-person voting," said Duszak. "Whether that's vote ahead or on Election Day."

Duszak said both he and his mother mailed their ballots in late September, but then his mother noticed an issue both of their ballots

"She told me, 'You better get yours in. It's showing it still at your house,' and I was, like, 'Well, I've already put it in,'" added Duszak. "And that started our inquiry and watching the status of it on Ballot Scout."

Ballot Scout is a tool run by the non-partisan non-profit Democray Works that allows Virginia voters to where there ballot is from when it is sent to them to when it is received by their local registrar. It does this using a United States Postal Service Intelligent Mail barcode.

Duszak said his status was last updated on September 20 and showed his ballot was scheduled to be delivered to his house. His mother's was last updated on September 23 and said showed it was in transit to the registrar's office.

"It would have felt a lot better to know that it was delivered or that it was moving along or...if it wasn't, you know, what the issue might be," said Duszak.


Jessenia Eliza, the Director of Government Initiatives at Democracy Works, told CBS 6 the issue the Duszaks were facing was as a result of their ballot barcodes not being scanned by USPS.

"Ballot Scout relies entirely on USPS data in the state of Virginia. How it works is that as the intelligent mail barcode on ballots are scanned, that information is sent to our tool, and it updates the associated voter record," explained Eliza. "We're seeing this here and there with ballots that aren't moving beyond that 'in-transit' status. That typically means just that the USPS didn't scan it further, not necessarily that the ballot isn't moving."

Eliza said there are a number of reasons the ballots may not have been scanned.

"Sometimes certain facilities don't have the necessary scanning equipment," said Eliza. "The other thing is when it reaches certain postal facilities, the USPS sometimes engages in a type of sorting, that prevents the ballot from being scanned any further."

Democracy Works, she added, was tracking upwards of one million ballots statewide and it appeared only small number had the scanning issue. Eliza added the group was passing along data along to the Virginia Board of Elections (VBOE).

A spokesperson for the VBOE that agency said it was aware of the issue and is working with USPS to improve scan rates.

"If Ballot Scout is not working for voters they may visit our citizen check registration status, to see if their ballot has been issued and if it has been accepted by the registrar upon return," added the spokesperson.

As for the Duszaks, CBS 6 checked with the Henrico County Registrar who confirmed both of their ballots had been received. He added that voters uncertain about the status of their mail-in ballot can also contact their local registrar directly.

Key Dates and Deadlines in Virginia

Friday, Sept. 18: Early, In-Person Voting Begins
Thursday, Oct. 15: Voter Registration Deadline
Friday, Oct. 23: Request Absentee/Mail-In Ballot Deadline
Saturday, Oct. 31: Early, In-Person Voting Ends
Tuesday, Nov. 3 is Election Day: In-Person Voting
Tuesday, Nov. 3: Absentee/Mail-In Postmark by Date
Friday, Nov. 6: Absentee/Mail-In Delivered By Date