Elections Canvassers Certify 7th District Race, Pepper Officials With Questions

    Maryland’s 7th Congressional District special election results were certified on Tuesday, a week after Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D) was sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives.

    The State Board of Canvassers ― a high-level panel of Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D), Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D), Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D), Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith, and Clerk of the Court of Appeals Suzanne C. Johnson ― met via conference call to certify the results in the special election to fill the remainder of the term of the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D).

    The meeting was “one for the history books,” Kopp declared near the start of a 20-minute conversation that included a vote to allow the panel to sign the official election results electronically, rather than by “wet signature.”

    While now official and set to be presented to the State Board of Elections and governor later this week, the results weren’t in dispute before Tuesday’s meeting.

    Mfume won 73.8% of the votes, while Republican Kimberly Klacik received 25.1%. Both candidates will appear again on ballots in the June 2 presidential primary to determine who will represent the district in the next full term.

    During the call, elections officials were asked about lessons learned during the April 28 election, which was the first in the state conducted almost entirely by mail.

    More than 156,000 ballots were returned by mail in the election and just over 1,000 people voted in person.

    The official results include 151,718 ballots that were accepted and cast, according to the State Board of Elections.

    Unofficial turnout was about 32%, high for a special election. The last time a special election was held in the same district ― in April 1996, when Cummings was elected to fill the remainder of Mfume’s term ― Election Day turnout was reported at 8%.

    Frosh lauded the turnout numbers, which he said may be the highest in state history for a special election.

    State Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone said the local elections boards in Howard County, Baltimore County and Baltimore City prepared in advance for high response rates. Those elections officials are now helping colleagues throughout the state prepare for the June 2 mail-in presidential primary election. Ballots have already gone out to thousands of voters and local boards will begin counting them next week.

    Lamone acknowledged some issues with the special election, including the initial failure to send absentee ballots to people who requested them before the state declared an all-mail election effort in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Absentee ballots were ultimately sent to those voters who requested them, but late in the voting window. “That kind of thing can’t happen again,” Lamone said Tuesday.

    Thousands of other ballots were returned to local boards as undeliverable. Lamone said the state is now working more closely with the U.S. Postal Service in preparation for the June 2 election.

    Franchot asked during the call whether other Montgomery County residents on the board of canvassers ― Kopp and Frosh ― had received their ballots in the mail. None of the officials had, but Deputy Elections Administrator Nikki Charlson said ballots for Montgomery County were set to be mailed this week.

    In neighboring Prince George’s County, where 90,000 voters received instructions in Spanish only, printed instructions in English are en route, according to elections officials.

    On Wednesday, the House Ways & Means Committee and Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee will hold a joint briefing about concerns with the state’s mail-in process for the special election and upcoming presidential primary.

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    Danielle E. Gaines
    Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.