In the continuing battle for Baltimore County executive, John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr.’s lead over state Sen. James Brochin in the Democratic primary shrank to a mere 42 votes Thursday, as the first absentee ballots were counted by election officials and included in vote tallies.
Falling further behind in the race was County Councilwoman Vicki L. Almond, who trailed Brochin by 983 votes Thursday, after the absentees were included in her returns from the Tuesday primary election.
By Thursday afternoon, the last of the preliminary returns had been recorded in Baltimore County, and 1,617 Democratic absentee ballots were accepted by elections officials and added to candidates’ returns. But the race was still too close to call.
The outcome will be decided by a still-unknown number of provisional ballots cast – many of which were the result of a Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration computer glitch in which changes to some tens of thousands of voter registrations statewide were not recorded.
Meanwhile Thursday, the MVA found another 7,200 voter registration changes that had not be transmitted to the State Board of Elections for processing, bringing the total number of voters affected by the blunder to roughly 87,200 – more than four-and-a-half times the number originally reported by the agency last weekend, just before the election.
The provisional ballots will not begin to be counted by the local election boards until 10 a.m. next Thursday, July 5. The second and final canvass of any absentee ballots received between Thursday and 10 a.m. next Friday will be counted on July 6.
That means the winner of the Democratic primary for Baltimore County executive likely will not be known until at least next Friday.
Whoever the nominee, the Democrat will face Alfred W. Redmer Jr., the Maryland insurance commissioner and former member of the House of Delegates in the Nov. 6 general election. Redmer, who is backed by Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., soundly defeated conservative Del. Patrick L. McDonough in the Tuesday GOP primary.
In the updated returns Thursday, Olszewski continued the lead he established in the election day returns with 27,270 votes, but immediately behind him was Brochin, now with 27,228 votes, followed by Almond, with 26,211 votes.
A fourth Democratic candidate, Kevin Francis Marron, who did not campaign, had 2,074 votes.
In a closely watched Baltimore City race, the absentee ballots meant that Del. Mary L. Washington’s lead over incumbent state Sen. Joan Carter Conway was narrowed by 60 votes in the bitter contest for the 43rd District Senate seat.
After the absentees were added Thursday, Conway, chairwoman of the powerful Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, still trailed with 8,860 votes to Washington’s 9,329.
Even with the provisional ballots and additional absentees next week, however, a 469-vote deficit will be nearly impossible for Conway to overcome.
On Sunday, upon first learning of the MVA’s failure, an outraged Conway announced that her committee would hold a hearing in July on the matter.
By Monday, when the MVA admitted that 80,000 voters were affected, Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Montgomery), who chairs the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Delegates, joined Conway in calling for the resignation of Motor Vehicle Administrator Christine E. Nizer.
Hogan has not responded directly to the demand, but instead directed the auditor for the Maryland Department of Transportation to conduct a comprehensive review of the bungle and told MVA leaders to be available for any legislative hearings.
The MVA snafu meant that 87,200 voters who attempted to change either their address or party affiliation using the agency kiosks or website without paying for other services, such as a new driver’s license, would have had to use a provisional ballot to vote in Tuesday’s election.
The changes voters thought they were making were never transmitted by the MVA to the State Board of Elections for processing because of a computer programming error, state officials said. The problems occurred in the 13½ months between April 22, 2017, and June 5, 2018, they said.
Thursday’s addition of 3,140 absentee ballots in the Democratic primary race for Montgomery County executive did not change the order of finish for candidates since the early results Tuesday, but did narrow the gap between the top two vote-getters.
County Councilman Marc B. Elrich now has 35,657 votes (29.1 percent), just 269 votes ahead of David T. Blair, who remains second in the six-candidate race for the nomination, with 35,388 votes (28.9 percent).
On Tuesday night, Elrich led Blair by 452 votes.
Finishing third is former Rockville mayor Rose G. Krasnow with 18,506 votes (15.1 percent), followed by County Councilman Roger Berliner with 15,802 votes (12.9 percent). County Councilman George L. Leventhal finished fifth with 12,593 (10.3 percent), trailed by state House Majority Leader C. William Frick, with 4,403 votes (3.6 percent).