The late discovery Thursday of 102 missing provisional ballots in Montgomery County has delayed the county’s ability to certify the July 19 primary results until Saturday — as the leading candidates in the razor-thin Democratic primary for county executive await a recount that’s expected to start next week.
County election officials announced around 11 p.m. Thursday that they had found 102 provisional ballots from nine precincts that hadn’t previously been counted — a potentially significant cache given County Executive Marc Elrich’s 42-vote lead over businessman David Blair in the Democratic primary for the county’s top job.
The Montgomery County Board of Elections had planned to meet Friday afternoon to certify the primary election results, but at a special board meeting conducted over Zoom at 3:30 p.m. Friday, board members were told that they would have to meet Saturday morning to count the remaining 102 ballots and then reconvene Saturday afternoon to certify the countywide results.
“One hundred and two ballots still need to be canvassed,” said Kevin Karpinski, the board’s attorney.
The count of the previously missing provisional ballots is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at the county election board headquarters in Gaithersburg. The board will meet again virtually at 3 p.m. to add the provisional count to the final totals and then certify the results.
At that point, Blair will have 72 hours to formally request a full recount of the primary for county executive — something his campaign has already indicated he intends to do.
County elections officials said they wanted to certify the election results on Saturday so that the Maryland State Board of Elections can certify the statewide results at its next board meeting, scheduled for Monday.
While Montgomery elections officials cast the late discovery of the 102 uncounted provisional ballots as proof that the local board’s auditing process worked, it nevertheless created a new wrinkle to what has already been a messy election. On top of that, Friday’s special board meeting, conducted online, was marred by technical difficulties, with board President Nahid Khozeimeh frequently unable to hear the proceedings but everyone else on the Zoom call able to hear her and her husband conversing as they attempted to fix the problems.
“Nahid, when you’re not talking, there’s a lot of noise coming from your location,” board Secretary David Naimon said at one point during the meeting.
“I know that,” Khozeimeh replied. “Something is broken.”
When board members weren’t coping with the balky technology, they pressed Alysoun McLaughlin, the county’s acting elections director, to explain how the 102 provisional ballots went missing. McLaughlin replied that they were not transferred from the folders in which they were initially collected to the folder they’re supposed to be placed in before canvassing is supposed to begin.
“All I can say is it appears to me that we simply did not conduct a final sweep of all those folders to see that they’d been emptied,” she said.
Asked whether this was a mistake made by one person or several people on the county elections staff, McLaughlin replied, “The responsibility was shared. It will be the responsibility of a single individual in the future.”
The Elrich-Blair primary is a rematch of 2018, and the result is eerily similar: Elrich won that race by 77 votes. The eventual winner of the primary will face former Montgomery County Republican Central Committee Chair Reardon Sullivan in the general election.