State Sen. James Brochin officially filed for a recount of the June 26 Democratic primary election for Baltimore County executive at 12:27 p.m. Tuesday, kicking off a process that election officials say will begin Thursday and run into the middle of next week.
Brochin is asking for a manual recount of the nearly 85,000 paper ballots cast in early voting and on election day, including absentee and provisional ballots – one of four recount options offered candidates under state law.
When the smoke finally cleared from the vote counting on Friday, Brochin had lost by nine votes to former Del. John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr. in a four-way race to be the Democratic nominee for executive.
Before filing for the recount, he had to wait for the county Board of Elections, acting as the Board of Canvassers, to certify the election results, which occurred Tuesday morning.
After the certification, Baltimore County elections officials met with lawyers and volunteers from both the Brochin and Olszewski campaigns to review the plans and logistics for the recount, a tedious and time-consuming process. Maryland State Board of Elections officials also were present, via conference call.
“The recount will begin in earnest Thursday morning,” said Andrew G. Bailey, attorney for the county elections board.
Officials estimate the recount will take five to six days, based on their experience four years ago in a recount for a Republican primary for county executive.
Officials will work through Saturday, but not Sunday, at least eight hours a day, very likely longer, he said.
Ideally, the recount would be complete in time for the results to be sent to Maryland State Board of Elections for its meeting next Thursday, July 19, when it is scheduled to certify the primary election statewide results.
The manual recount would be done by bipartisan teams of four people at each of 20 tables that will be set up in a warehouse area in the rear of the Board of Elections offices in Hunt Valley, Bailey said. That would require at least 80 people simply to recount the paper ballots.
As the county board only has 30-some employees, elections officials will have to depend on staff from neighboring jurisdictions, including Baltimore City and Howard County, for assistance, Bailey said.
“One of the issues the campaigns raised was concern about the access observers can have to meaningfully observe the recount process,” Bailey said. “Ideally they would like to have one representative per table.”
Envisioning six people seated at each of 20 tables – four recount officials and one observer from each of the two campaigns – all stuffed into the warehouse space that will be made available for the exercise taxes the imagination.
Complicating matters is that any observers coming and going to the counting room would have to be paraded through a secure area with election board files that is not ordinarily open to the public.
Olszewski finished with 27,804 votes, followed by Brochin with 27,795. A third candidate, County Councilwoman Vicki L. Almond, once expected to be a dominant factor in the race, trailed Brochin by 960, having received 26,835 votes.
Another Democratic candidate, Kevin Francis Marron, who did not campaign at all, finished a distant fourth with 2,135 votes.
The discovery of a computer glitch at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration on the eve of the primary sent elections officials into overdrive to determine the extent of a problem in which more than 83,000 voter registration changes made at the MVA were not transmitted to the State Board of Elections for processing.
The software hitch meant that any state resident who had attempted to make certain changes at the MVA and wanted to vote on Election Day had to use a provisional ballot. In the end, the programming error presented less of a problem than originally believed it would, elections officials said.
The Democratic nominee will face Republican Alfred W. Redmer Jr., 62, the Maryland insurance commissioner and former member of the House of Delegates, in the Nov. 6 general election.