Montgomery Co. election board will meet Saturday to certify primary

Montgomery County’s Board of Elections will meet Saturday morning to count 102 previously uncounted provisional ballots, and then certify the primary election.

The board had planned on certifying the results in the July 19 election by Friday afternoon, but that changed when Board of Elections Acting Administrator Alysoun McLaughlin announced Thursday night that 102 provisional ballots had been discovered during the routine audit before certification.

The board met Friday and discussed the circumstances around Thursday’s discovery. Board member David Naimon asked whether there were “any further explanation” as to why the ballots had been missed initially, and what would be done “to prevent a similar occurrence in a future election.”

McLaughlin, said “We do have this audit process designed the way that it is for a reason, and it did in fact work.” She said that the results had been “double- and triple-checked” before being brought to the board for certification.

However, McLaughlin said, “We had a number of staffing changes; we had a number of vacancies and thin staffing for this election” and that errors were made in the transfer of provisional ballots from nine precincts, calling the mistake “a shared responsibility.” In the future, McLaughlin said, a single person would be tasked with overseeing the organization and transfer of provisional ballots.

The move to finish tabulating results in the primary election means incumbent Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and his rival in the Democratic primary, David Blair, will have to wait until Saturday for the results in the race that currently puts Elrich ahead by 42 votes.

Blair, who lost to Elrich for the same office in 2018 by 77 votes, has said he intends to ask for a recount. Blair can’t petition for a recount until after the results are certified.

Preparing for November

The board members, meeting virtually, agreed to consider legal action to allow the canvassing of mail-in ballots for the general election as early as Oct. 1.

The board’s attorney, Kevin Karpinski, said four of the state’s largest jurisdictions were exploring whether to support a motion for “emergency relief” to allow for the early vote-counting, which is prohibited under current state law.

Montgomery, Prince George’s, Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties, and Baltimore City, would be included in that effort. Maryland law currently requires counting mail-in and provisional ballots to begin two days after Election Day.

The board members also voted to shift 11 polling places for the general election in November. McLaughlin said the action would return 10 of 11 polling places that had been moved for the summer primary to their original locations.

The remaining polling place would be at Greenwood Elementary School, a new polling place created as a result of redistricting in the state.

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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