It’s recount season in Maryland. Here’s where they’re happening and how they work

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Three weeks after Maryland’s primary elections, officials in three counties are preparing for recounts in unresolved contests.

There are too-close-to-call races in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Frederick counties. The search for the trained personnel needed for potentially time-consuming recounts is on, an elections official said. And the longer races remain up in the air, the tougher it will be for elections boards to meet critical deadlines for the general election in November.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections is expected to meet on Friday to certify incumbent County Executive Marc Elrich’s 42-vote win over businessman David Blair in the Democratic primary. Elrich received 55,473 votes (39.20%); Blair received 55,431 (39.17%).

Candidates have 72 hours after a vote is certified to request a recount. In a statement issued on Sunday, Blair said, “we will be requesting a full recount and are hopeful that the outcome will be in our favor.”

Elrich declared victory in a social media post on Saturday. “I am honored to be the Democratic nominee for County Executive,” he wrote. “[W]ith the results certain, we must work together to ensure Montgomery County remains solidly Democratic and turns out for Wes Moore and our entire Democratic ticket.”

The elections board has reserved a large space, the gymnasium at the Germantown Community Recreation Center, for the recount, and officials have cast a wide net for the staff that will be needed.

“I have put out the appeal to my colleagues in other counties to get some help,” said acting administrator Alysoun McLaughlin, “because we can’t use election judges for a recount. We can only use employees of a board of elections.”

Blair has not specified which of the four types of recounts Maryland law offers, but Montgomery officials are operating under the assumption that he will seek the most thorough — and time-consuming — option, a full, manual recount.

Elrich’s .03% margin of victory over Blair was within the 0.25% threshold set by state law for a free recount.

McLaughlin said it’s unclear how long it will take to conduct a recount, because she doesn’t know how many personnel the board will have. “It’s wholly dependent on how many bodies I can lure to help us,” she said.

Elrich defeated Blair by just 77 votes when they ran against each other in the 2018 Democratic primary. The ultimate winner this time will face Republican Reardon Sullivan in November.

The Frederick County Board of Elections will meet Wednesday morning to resolve a discrepancy in the primary vote count and to begin the process of resolving a County Council race in which the candidates are separated by three votes.

In a public notice, the board said it discovered an error in the vote-count as officials were preparing a recount in the District 3 Democratic primary, a race pitting Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer against challenger Jazmin Di Cola.

Di Cola won 2,300 votes (50.03% of the tally) and Keegan-Ayer captured 2,297 (49.97%). Keegan-Ayer has requested a recount, according to Deputy State Elections Administrator Nikki Charlson.

Wednesday’s meeting will take place at the Board of Elections office and is open to the public.

“While preparing for a recount of the County Council District 3 election results, the Frederick County Board of Elections discovered a discrepancy between the total number of votes in the certified results and the number of accepted mail-in and provisional ballots,” the board said in a statement.

“An on-going review suggests there were human errors in ballot accounting during the mail-in and provisional canvasses. As a result of this discovery, all ballot accounting will be reviewed.”

The board will first vote to decertify the results of the primary, then it will rescan the mail-in and provisional ballots, according to the statement.

“In order to ensure the accuracy of the rescan, the Frederick County Board of Elections asked the State Board of Elections and the Howard County Board of Elections to review ballot accounting procedures and assist in rescanning of the ballots,” the statement said.

The process is expected to last two days and will be followed by a new vote to certify the tally. A recount may be requested after the rescanning and re-certification of the election, the board said.

The Democratic primary winner will face Republican Shelley Aloi in November.

In Prince George’s County, officials are preparing for a recount to resolve a House of Delegates race that remains too close to call. The three seats at stake in the District 23 Democratic primary appear to have been won by incumbent Marvin Holmes (10,382 votes), Bowie City Council member Adrian Boafo (9,237 votes), and activist and business owner Kym Taylor (8,957 votes).

But Jocelyn Irene Collins, a party activist and former legislative staffer, finished fourth, just out of the running, 19 votes behind Taylor, and she has requested a recount. The primary had 10 candidates.

The process for conducting a recount in legislative districts requires certification of election results by the state board. That is scheduled to take place on Aug. 15. “Once the State Board certifies the results, the local board can plan the recount,” said Charlson in an email.

Republicans did not field any candidates in District 23.

The recount process

There are four recount options available under Maryland law.

  • Option 1: A manual tabulation of printed reports from early voting, election day, and the mail-in and provisional ballot canvasses. Under this option, printed reports from precinct tabulators and high speed scanners (if available) are examined and manually tabulated
  • Option 2: A re-scan of voted paper ballots involved in the recount using precinct tabulators or high speed scanner (if available) to reproduce early voting, precinct or mail-in or provisional ballot canvass totals
  • Option 3: A manual recount of voted paper ballots involved in the recount
  • Option 4: A manual recount of ballot images of voted ballots involved in the recount

The longer it takes for close races to be resolved, the less time elections officials have to prepare for the general election.

“Everything is on a compressed timetable,” McLaughlin said. The deadline for the state board to certify the content and arrangement of the November ballot is Sept. 6. Local officials must proof a huge number of variations of the ballot for them to be certified and printed. “One election is really going to roll right into the next,” she said.

Under federal law, the deadline for shipping ballots to military personnel and other Americans living overseas is Sept. 24.

Harford County race has already gone through the recount process. In that contest, for the District D county council seat, James Reilly won the Republican primary over John Carl by 11 votes. Reilly received 2,862 votes; Carl won 2,851. Reilly will face Democrat Jean Salvatore in the general election to replace departing Councilmember Chad Shrodes (R).

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