Campaign signs line grass near Veterans Plaza outside the Silver Spring Civic Building on Tuesday. Credit: Photo By Steve Bohnel

Editor’s note: Bethesda Beat will provide continuing coverage throughout Primary Election Day. Check here for frequent updates on what’s happening at the polls and other election news.  A post about voting at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg was corrected at 1:58 p.m. to reflect that Brielle Lizmi is a special education teacher at Winston Churchill High School.

As Election Day begins, steady stream of voters at Silver Spring Civic Building

With polls opening at 7 a.m., voter turnout was quiet but steady at some polling places in the Silver Spring area Tuesday morning, as Primary Election Day marked the last opportunity for county voters to cast their ballots in person or deposit mail-in ballots into a drop box or post them by mail.

The Silver Spring Civic Building was the busiest of all three polling places. At around 8 a.m., multiple candidates for office ⁠— including  State’s Attorney  John McCarthy and one of his challengers, Tom DeGonia, along with County Council District 4 candidate John Zittrauer —were greeting voters. Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart, another candidate for County Council District 4, arrived around 8:45 a.m.

Only a handful of voters were entering the Gwendolyn Coffield Community Center at around 7:15 a.m. The polls will be open until 8 p.m. Anybody in line by 8 p.m. is allowed to vote, per state law.

At the voting center at Sligo Creek Elementary School, Matt Smith, one of the chief election judges, said about 20 to 30 people had voted by 8:55 a.m. There was a slight rush at around 7 a.m., and activity had been “steady” since then, he said. 

 

A line of voters wait to vote inside the Silver Spring Civic Building on Tuesday. Photo By Steve Bohnel

Joel St. Clair, the chief election judge at the civic center, said about 25 people voted in the first hour that the polls were open. A steady line of about 25 to 30 people snaked outside the main auditorium, where voting was occurring. 

St. Clair said he was working as an election judge as a way to give back to his community, and that he wanted a “fair and efficient voter process.”

Andrew Z., a Silver Spring voter who declined to give his last name, said he voted for Wes Moore for governor. It was difficult to choose, but he believed Moore had the most community support. Moore is running in a crowded primary field of nine Democratic candidates. Several Republicans are also competing in Tuesday’s primary.

Andrew said he voted for David Blair for county executive. He said he was hesitant to vote for Blair initially, but added he was “worried” that the incumbent, Marc Elrich, might keep doing “the same old thing” regarding community development and business growth. Blair and Elrich face County Council Member Hans Riemer and technology entrepreneur Peter James in the Democratic primary for county executive.

Kate Stewart was Andrew’s pick for County Council District 4. 

Ellen Greer of Silver Spring was among the voters who were dropping off their mail-in ballots in a drop box outside of the civic center. Though Greer declined to say who she had voted for, she said she had studied information about the candidates and housing affordability was a top issue for her.

“To be honest, so many of the candidates seemed great,” Greer said of the Democrats running. “So whoever voters pick, I think Maryland is going to be in a very good place.”

Dan Desai Martin, a Silver Spring resident, said he voted for Tom Perez for governor. He cited Perez’ work at the U.S. Department of Justice on civil rights issues, and his work as chair of the Democratic National Committee during a period when Democrats gained control of Congress and the White House in his time at the helm.

Martin said he voted for David Blair for county executive. He cited Blair’s vision on housing, transportation and jobs in Montgomery County. He also voted for Tom Hucker in the County Council at-large race, saying he’d met Hucker several times and liked his style of governance. 

Will Smith was his choice for state senator in District 20, which covers Silver Spring and Takoma Park. Smith has introduced and supported legislation to expand voting access, Martin said. 

“I voted for him because I want see more of that,” Martin said. 

As of 10 a.m., only a handful of voters were seen entering the polling place at Gaithersburg High School.

–Steve Bohnel and Caitlynn Peetz

11:45 a.m.: 

Some Bethesda polling sites also seeing low morning turnout

At 10 a.m., only 100 people had cast their ballots at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and there were no lines. The crowd was even more sparse at Walter Johnson High School, where only 62 people had voted as of 11 a.m.

Leaving the polls at Walter Johnson around 10:45 a.m., Davida Cummings of North Bethesda told Bethesda Beat that the experience was “nice and smooth.”

“Considering I’m visually impaired, they had good help in there and everyone’s helpful,” she said.

Cummings said she used an electronic ballot because the words are larger than they are on paper ballots. She said  she was disappointed see such low turnout, but she was hopeful it would pick up.

After voting, John Rieger of North Bethesda said he also was disappointed at the turnout. Rieger said after some research on candidates over the weekend, he cast his vote in the county executive race for incumbent Marc Elrich.

“I’ve been a supporter of Hans Riemer ever since he ran for his first seat on the council. And I was leaning toward David Blair over the weekend, because it seemed like Democrats were doing that,” he said.

Rieger, who called himself a progressive Democrat and “not a corporate Democrat,” said he was ultimately turned off by Blair because of his personal wealth.

“I didn’t know he was so wealthy… . That to me is a red flag,” he said.

Sue Ressler of North Bethesda told Bethesda Beat at Walter Johnson that she voted for Republican Reardon Sullivan in the county executive race and Republican Dan Cox in the governor’s race. Ressler said she has been unhappy with the current leadership in the county.

“They’re not doing a good enough job of taking care of the people. It seems like crime is up,” she said.

Ressler said she also was disappointed with the low voter turnout, with just a half dozen cars in the parking lot at 11 a.m.

Ressler said she elected to use the electronic ballot after first trying to submit a paper ballot using pencil.

“When it goes through the machine to register my vote, it wouldn’t go through. So then we switched over to the machine,” she said.

–Dan Schere

12 p.m.:

District 15 state Del. Lily Qi and challenger Saqib Ali among candidates pursuing votes at Quince Orchard High School

Nearly 70 voters cast their ballots within the first two hours of voting at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, election officials said around 9 a.m.

Outside, a drizzle of candidates — including District 15 incumbent state Del. Lily Qi and challenger Saqib Ali — and campaign workers talked to voters.

Qi thanked people for coming out to vote. Ali repeatedly told voters that he “hates” guns.

“I just can’t stand guns,” Ali said.

Jennifer Ellington, a District 17 candidate for the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, said she voted because she “wants Republicans to win.”

Brielle Lizmi, a special education teacher at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, brought her young daughter with her to vote. 

As a teacher, Lizmi said education is one of the most important issues to her. 

“The mental health of our students coming back from the pandemic has been an important issue in my line of work,” she said. 

Across the street at Quince Orchard Library, there was only one campaign worker outside, staffing a table with campaign literature for Democratic candidates. Just over 30 people had voted by 10 a.m., election officials said. 

Turnout has been “light” at Rachel Carson Elementary School in Gaithersburg this morning, Montgomery County Council member Sidney Katz said around 10:30. A handful of campaign staff and volunteers waited outside, ready to talk to the few voters that came by.

Campaign worker hand out literature at the polls at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville on Tuesday morning.

At Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, volunteers handing out campaign materials for candidates said there had been a slow but steady stream of about seven to 15 voters per hour throughout the morning.

They said many people who came to vote were confused about where to find the entrance and campaign volunteers had to help them find the right door. The school’s main door was not the entrance for voting; a side door near the football stadium was the entrance.

Otherwise, the workers said the morning was going well — voters were excited and friendly, they said.

— Christine Zhu and Caitlynn Peetz

12:15 p.m.:

Mail-in ballots reported through Monday, two East County sites see steady but low turnout

There were no lines at two polling sites in East County in the late morning, even though chief election judges reported a steady stream of voters since the opening of polls at 7 a.m.

At around 10:15 a.m. at Greencastle Elementary School, 67 people had cast a ballot, according to chief election judge Lisa Schumaker. Schumaker has been a chief election judge for the county since 2012. 

Schumaker said that for future elections, there need to be more registered Republicans and other voters who aren’t Democrats signing up to be judges. Most of the people on her team Tuesday were Democrats, she said.

Carl Wright, a 62-year-old who lives near Greencastle Elementary, said he voted for Tom Perez for governor.

“[It was] the fact he had been part of a successful [presidential] administration, and he is unafraid to get in and mix it up [with opponents] when he has to,” said Wright of Perez, who served in the Obama administration. 

Wright said he voted for David Blair for county executive. Four years ago, he voted for incumbent Marc Elrich. Wright said that while  Elrich has done a great job guiding the county through the coronavirus pandemic, he was concerned about Elrich’s decision to remove police officers from public schools, along with not increasing a police presence given current crime trends.

At the Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center less than 2 miles to the north, 105 voters had cast their ballots as of around 11:10 a.m., according to election totals posted on the front door. 

Fatmata Barrie, a County Council candidate running for District 5 — which covers the eastern part of the county — stood outside, handing literature to voters. Barrie said that she enjoyed campaigning during the primary season and that people were very “accepting” when she was knocking on doors.

Economic development and school infrastructure were big issues in District 5 during the campaign, she said. Job creation isn’t enough, Barrie added , noting that the jobs also must pay well. As a White Oak resident, she said she knows many neighbors who make less than $30,000 a year, and given apartment prices, that can make the cost of living difficult for some residents.

Barrie said she believed she did her best to engage with voters, but a lack of local polling and a crowded field of eight Democrats in the District 5 race meant it’s been difficult to know how well she and others were doing. Perhaps more importantly, because mail-in ballots can’t be counted until Thursday, final results could be delayed for days, or even weeks, she said.

“I don’t expect a real answer until the beginning of August,” Barrie said. “There’s too many mail-in ballots.”

According to state Board of Elections data, 115,289 mail-in ballots had been delivered to voters. As of Monday night, 29,388 had been received by the county Board of Elections.  

— Steve Bohnel

1:05 p.m.:

Friedson, Korman staying upbeat during campaign stop at North Bethesda Middle School

Montgomery County Council Member Andrew Friedson, who represents District 1 and is running unopposed, and state Del. Mark Korman were upbeat as they campaigned Tuesday morning at the polls at North Bethesda Middle School.

At 11:30 a.m., Friedson said he had at least 13 stops to make around the county during the day.

“There’s good energy. Turnout’s a little bit low as expected. With a summer primary we have major mail-in numbers. There’s no line, so hopefully if voters haven’t voted yet, they’ll be able to vote by the end of the night,” he said.

 

Friedson said residents should realize the importance of this year’s election as the county and Maryland continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re at an inflection point coming out of the pandemic in determining what the county and the state are gonna look like for the next 10, 20, 30 years. I think the political leadership that we have is gonna play a big role in determining whether we seize this opportunity coming out of this unprecedented moment,” he said.

The 11 a.m. tally showed that 158 people had voted at the school.

Korman, a Bethesda Democrat, said he is remaining optimistic about turnout.

It’s slow and steady, but we know a lot of people are voting by mail, [and] a lot of people voted early. So Election Day doesn’t quite mean what it used to, but it’s still a great opportunity for people to cast their votes,” he said.

— Dan Schere

2:45 p.m.:

Turnout light in early tallies at two other East County polling locations, but things running smoothly

Two chief election judges said turnout was steady but that the number of ballots cast were relatively low, as Election Day activity continued Tuesday afternoon.

Leslie Krafft, a chief election judge at William Tyler Page Elementary School in Silver Spring, said that 122 ballots had been cast as of around 1:30 p.m. She encouraged county residents of all political backgrounds to volunteer to help with the general election in November.

“It’s pretty calm in here, so we’re doing OK,” Krafft said inside the polling room Tuesday. “But we could always use more election judges for the general [election].”

After casting his ballot, Emmanuel Wassow, who lives three blocks from the school, said he voted for  Democrat Wes Moore for governor. He liked his background and experienced and found him to be a relatable candidate. 

Wassow also voted for Democrat David Blair for county executive. 

“He’s someone that I think is more concerned about people who are low-income,” Wassow said, adding that he thinks the businessman will bring more high-paying jobs to Montgomery County.

The Colesville area resident also voted for incumbent Will Jawando for a County County at-large seat, noting his work as an aide to former president Barack Obama and adding that he agrees with Jawando’s views on policing issues. 

About two-and-a-half miles away, the polls at Jackson Road Elementary School were quiet at around 1 p.m. Paul Valette, a chief election judge there, said that 134 ballots had been cast by around that time. 

Valette, who has worked as an election judge in every election since 2010 except for 2020 — due to the coronavirus pandemic — said it’s difficult to know why in-person turnout may be lower than in prior election cycles. Mail-in ballots were still being delivered to the Montgomery County Board of Elections, whether via the mail or ballot drop boxes around the county, he noted.

Plus, there are many competitive races this cycle, he said.

“I watch the TV news almost every evening … and it seems everybody and his dog has an ad saying ‘Vote for me, don’t vote for him,’ ” Valette said.

Both Krafft and Valette said there were rarely, if any, long waits at their polling places Tuesday. Valette said voters may have had to wait as long as five minutes at Jackson Road Elementary at around 12:30 p.m.

Emily Baty, a teacher at Rosemary Hills Elementary School in Silver Spring, wouldn’t say who she voted for as she left Jackson Road Elementary on Tuesday. But one issue was top of mind: education.

“The [coronavirus] pandemic brought to light a lot of issues with pay, and we have a lot of good teachers leaving because they can’t handle the demands,” Baty said. “I have a lot of friends and colleagues who have left the profession because of that.”

— Steve Bohnel

4:25 p.m.:

Candidates anticipating long wait before election results are finalized

Talking with voters Tuesday afternoon outside the polls at Lakelands Park Middle School in Gaithersburg, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan said she expects Montgomery County election results to be finalized Aug. 12.

Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed Kagan’s election law bill, which would’ve allowed election officials to begin processing mail-in ballots eight days before the start of early voting, which ran from July 7-14. Instead, mail-in ballots may not be counted until Thursday. 

Alysoun McLaughlin, the county’s acting election director, said this week the likely substantial increase in the number of mail-in ballots that will be arriving  combined with the fact that county election workers — because of state law — can’t start counting those ballots until Thursday means it’s highly unlikely that any close races will be called Tuesday night or even Wednesday morning.

According to state law, county election officials can accept mail-in ballots as long as they are postmarked by 8 p.m. July 19 and are delivered to the county Board of Elections office by July 29.

Kagan said in a press release Monday that Hogan’s “veto will feed into conspiracy theories about fraud by forcing us to wait weeks for election results to be certified.”

Despite the concern about the delayed results, Kagan said Tuesday that she was feeling great.  

“I’m so optimistic that my candidates, Wes Moore and David Blair, are going to be victorious,” said Kagan, a Democrat who is running for re-election in District 17. Both Democrats, Moore is running for governor and Blair for Montgomery County executive.

According to election officials, 212 people had cast ballots at the middle school as of around 1 p.m. 

There are more campaign signs than voters at the polls Tuesday afternoon at Stone Mill Elementary School in North Potomac. Photo by Christine Zhu

The polls were quiet at Stone Mill Elementary School in North Potomac. There were less than 10 cars in the parking lot, no campaign staff outside and no voters in sight.

Around 50 voters had cast their ballots by around 1:30 p.m., according to election officials.

Joe Vogel, a Democrat running for state delegate in District 17, checked in on his volunteers at the polls at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, where 134 people had voted as of around 2:30 p.m.

He also had doubts about when the county elections board would  announce results. “I think we’re gonna win,” Vogel said. “Hopefully, we don’t find that out in two weeks.”

— Christine Zhu

8:20 p.m.

Polls close as local candidates make final push to grab last-minute votes

Polls closed at 8 p.m. across Maryland, and the wait for the first batch of results began.

Voters who were in line at 8 p.m. will still be able to cast their votes. Results will not begin to be released until the final voters have submitted their ballots.

A line of voters waits to cast their ballots as polls close on Tuesday.

The Silver Spring Civic Building was busier than it had been early Tuesday morning, with a line of 40 to 50 people waiting outside the auditorium as the polls closed.

An election worker locked a ballot drop box at 8 p.m. and told a Bethesda Beat reporter that election officials would pick up the ballots by 11 p.m. By around 8:30 p.m. no one had picked them up.

County Executive Marc Elrich, who is running for re-election, joined County Council at-large candidate Brandy Brooks, state Del. David Moon (D-Takoma Park), and State’s Attorney candidate Perry Paylor outside the civic building, all vying for last-minute votes.

An election worker in the Civic Building said 723 ballots had been cast as of around 8:10 p.m. Roughly speaking, a total of about  750 voters would cast a ballot at the polling place, taking into consideration those still voting in the auditorium and also waiting in line. 

— Caitlynn Peetz and Steve Bohnel