Canvassers at work at the Montgomery College campus in Germantown. Credit: Steve Bohnel

The headline of this story was updated at 4:30 p.m. July 27, 2022, to reflect a technicality in the canvassing process. Kevin Karpinski, attorney for the Board of Elections, told Bethesda Beat Wednesday afternoon that the canvass for provisional ballots was opened on Wednesday, per state law. But no provisonal ballots were actually processed. Mail-in ballots were what canvassers worked on Wednesday, he said. 

After a day off Tuesday, election workers and bipartisan teams of canvassers return to work Wednesday to canvass provisional and mail-in ballots, according to the county Board of Elections. There is an option for canvassing to continue Thursday, if needed. 

Gilberto Zelaya, spokesman for the board, wrote in a text message to Bethesda Beat on Tuesday night that election workers had finished canvassing and scanning more than 41,000 mail-in ballots and sent the vote results to the State Board of Elections. In total, more than 68,000 mail-in ballots have been received, including those that come through the mail and those that were dropped in ballot drop boxes, officials said Monday. 

There are just over 8,000 provisional ballots that need to be counted, Zelaya said, as well as the remaining mail-in ballots that have been received and those that may arrive by Friday’s 10 a.m. deadline. 

Canvassers and election workers reviewed and scanned 4,796 ballots last Thursday on the first day of counting, 14,782 ballots on Friday, 10,640 ballots on Saturday, and 11,175 ballots on Monday, Zelaya said. Canvassers were off on Sunday and Tuesday.

Alysoun McLaughlin, the county’s acting election director, and David Naimon, the secretary of the Board of Elections, said it’s difficult to predict how many mail-in ballots or provisional ballots will be scanned and sent to the state each day because the amount of time it takes to count a ballot varies depending on the type of ballot. McLaughlin said earlier this month she expects election officials to have counted 95% percent of ballots by the first week of August, and that the local Board of Elections hopes to certify the election by Aug. 12.

“We have a certain number of tables with a certain number of participants, we can have more complex situations [or] less complex situations, [and] faster teams [or] slower teams,” McLaughlin said Monday inside the canvassing room. “But we also have the ability to scale this [operation] up if we need to, or scale it down if we’ve got a smaller volume of ballots. So it really is just a matter of the flow of the ballots — where the staff work has been completed on the front end to prepare the ballots for canvass, and then what we introduce to the canvass teams, and then what we send back to the scanner.”

Zelaya said the first day’s total count was low because election workers didn’t start scanning ballots until 9 p.m., and the deadline to send scanned ballots to the state is 11 p.m.

Now election workers at Montgomery College in Germantown are sending canvassed ballots to the scanners in the board’s offices in Gaithersburg at multiple points during the day, officials said. 

The State Board of Elections has been posting election updates at various points during canvassing days, but did not post an update Tuesday night. 

Zelaya said election officials have no way of knowing how many more ballots might come through the mail by the Friday deadline. McLaughin said that typically, mail-in ballots from military members and citizens overseas are the last to come in, but that’s not a guarantee. 

“If I had those numbers, I would play the lotto every week,” Zelaya said Monday about mail-in ballots arriving this week.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com