Maryland vote count continues with tight races still up in the air

WTOP's Kate Ryan reports on Montgomery County's vote count

Montgomery County’s Democratic primary results for the office of County Executive have been see-sawing between incumbent Marc Elrich and businessman David Blair.

The last figures posted Wednesday night showed Blair up by 145 votes, with a total of 44,722 to Elrich’s 4,577, but the tally is far from over.

Friday is the last day that Maryland’s boards of elections will accept mail-in ballots, but the counting will continue for days.

To be included in the final canvass, those mail-in ballots must be received by Friday morning at 10 a.m. and must have been postmarked July 19 — the date of the state primary.

Gilberto Zelaya, the public information officer for the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said Thursday evening that 65,263 mail-in ballots had been logged “as received” and that of those, 47,659 had been canvassed and tabulated.

But Zelaya added that there are more ballots being processed. Elections workers, he said, are “still working on mail-in ballots received and not logged in from the 26th on.”

There are 8,030 provisional ballots yet to be tabulated, and that process, said Zelaya, is painstaking. There are a number of scenarios under which a voter could choose to cast a provisional ballot and, for every vote that is cast provisionally, there has to be documentation attached.

For example, said Zelaya, provisional ballots could be cast in cases where a person requested to vote by mail but didn’t get the packet. “Or maybe the voter had their ballot in hand but decided to vote in person,” he said. In each and every case, the teams of elections workers must check the ballot and the documents explaining why the ballot was cast provisionally.

There are also a number of ballots that a voter requests via email. Those are then printed out by the voter and returned to the board of elections office by mail. That ballot then has to be duplicated and processed by hand, a task carried out by the bipartisan elections workers.

Zelaya said there were 18,000 web delivery requests — how many are actually returned is still being determined since those are the same ballots that are subject to the Friday, July 29 return date as other mail-in ballots.

Elections officials have said that they hoped to have the count completed and certified by Aug. 12. Zelaya said he hopes the tally can be completed by “sometime late next week” but, he added, “we’re crossing our fingers and hoping that the canvass gods and the planets line up.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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