This story was updated at 9:15 a.m. Aug. 2, 2022, to include more information about the counting of mail-in and provisional ballots.
Incumbent Marc Elrich regained the lead over challenger David Blair in the Democratic primary for Montgomery County executive after the eighth day of canvassing, according to results released Monday night by the State Board of Elections.
The results showed that Elrich is ahead of Blair by 120 votes, erasing the slim lead of 21 votes that Blair held at the end of Saturday’s counting. Elrich, who is facing Blair for the second time in four years, has 49,804 votes to Blair’s 49,684, for a margin of 39.29% to 39.20%.
Under Maryland election law, if a candidate finishes within 0.25% of another candidate once final vote totals are certified by a local elections board, that candidate can request a state-financed recount at no personal expense.
Blair, a multimillionaire businessman from Potomac who has largely self-financed both of his campaigns, lost to Elrich in the 2018 primary by 77 votes following a recount. It gave Elrich, a Takoma Park resident – who, in 12 years on the County Council, was seen as a political outlier often at odds with his colleagues — his first term in the county’s top elected position.
County Council Member at-large Hans Riemer, the other major contender in this year’s Democratic race for executive, conceded a day after the polls closed on July 19. The latest count put him at 19.8%, with 25,097 votes.
As was the case four years ago, the 2022 primary has yielded not only a close county executive primary, but one with a lengthy ballot count – the result of current law that barred the tallying of mail-in ballots until Thursday, July 21, two days after the primary election itself. Legislation to allow mail-in votes to be counted in advance of the primary was vetoed earlier this year by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
Alysoun McLaughlin, the county’s acting election director, has said she expects most mail-in and provisional ballots will be canvassed and scanned this week with a goal of certifying the result by Aug. 12, a week from Friday. Once the election results have been certified by the county Board of Elections, candidates have three days to request a recount.
Gilberto Zelaya, a spokesman for the county’s Board of Elections, wrote in a text that mail-in ballots will be counted Tuesday and Wednesday, and the remaining provisional ballots will be counted Friday. Zelaya wrote that there are roughly 7,250 provisional ballots to canvass after the board rejected hundreds of ballots Sunday. Some of the reasons a provisional ballot might be rejected include: the applicant is not registered to vote, a resident already voted via a mail-in ballot, identification or a Social Security or a driver’s license number was not received in a timely manner, there was an identifying mark (signature) on the ballot or proof of residency was not received in a timely manner.
The county’s Board of Elections wrote in a tweet Tuesday morning that 74,891 mail-in ballots were received this primary election, and that about 11,371 mail-in ballots still needed to be canvassed and tabulated.
With the Democrats enjoying a 4-1 voter registration edge in the county, the ultimate winner of the Blair-Elrich faceoff will be a prohibitive favorite to come out on top in the November general election against GOP candidate Reardon Sullivan, former chair of the county’s Republican Central Committee.
Since the counting began, the lead has switched back and forth between the two candidates.
Blair emerged from Primary Day and early voting a week earlier ahead of Elrich by about 1,100 votes. But when counting of mail-in ballots began July 21, Elrich erased that lead and pulled ahead a day later.
Last weekend’s tabulations showed Blair chipping away at Elrich’s slim lead, and results released mid-day July 25 put him just 141 votes behind Elrich. By that night’s release of the results, Blair had regained the lead by 134 votes. That lead grew by 11 votes after Wednesday’s tabulations, but decreased by 14 votes after Friday’s count, resulting in a 131-vote margin pending Saturday’s count – which cut it down to 21 votes.