Mail-in and provisional ballots at the Montgomery College Germantown campus earlier this month. Credit: Steve Bohnel

This story was updated at 9:50 a.m. Aug. 12, 2022, to include further comments. It was updated again at 10:40 a.m.

The county’s Board of Elections announced Thursday night that it had discovered more than 100 provisional ballots that had remained unreviewed after the July 19 primary election.

According to a news release, Alysoun McLaughlin, the county’s acting election director, said that a precertification audit found 102 “unopened, sealed ballot envelopes” that need to be opened and the ballots canvassed.

The announcement means that the top two contenders locked in a tight race in the Democratic primary for Montgomery County executive — as well as voters — will have to wait even longer to find out who has won.

County Executive Marc Elrich led challenger David Blair by 42 votes after the initial count concluded this past weekend, nearly three weeks after Election Day. Blair has said he will request a full recount. That recount was expected to begin around Aug. 18 if the county elections board had certified the elections results by Friday as planned.

Teresa Woorman, campaign manager for Elrich, wrote in a text: “We are glad the audit process that was already in place did its job and caught this issue prior to certification!”

Aaron Kraut, a spokesman for Blair’s campaign, wrote in a text: “This is what the final audit is for. We continue to be appreciative of the Board and Board staff’s diligence and commitment to ensuring every vote is counted.”

McLaughlin said the discovery of the provisional ballots will delay the certification.

“Today, we pulled our random sample of empty provisional ballot envelopes for audit and were unable to locate one of the randomly selected envelopes where it should have been,” McLaughlin wrote in a statement. “In addition, we were unable to resolve a discrepancy between the number of provisional ballots that our staff had recommended that the Board accept, and the number of ballots scanned.”

“Together, these two pieces of information prompted a visual search of folders where provisional ballots had been stored prior to the canvass. Those folders contained 102 unopened, sealed ballot envelopes that were never removed from their folders and presented to the canvass,” McLaughlin said.

“I apologize for this error and for not identifying it until today, or the remaining ballots could have been counted earlier,” she added. “I want to emphasize that Maryland’s comprehensive precertification audit was designed to identify issues like this before an election is certified to ensure the accuracy of the results. It worked as intended.”

The Board of Elections is scheduled to meet Friday at 3:30 p.m. to discuss the findings of the audit and schedule the canvass for the remaining provisional ballots and certification of the election, according to the release.

The close 2022 Democratic primary is a repeat of the 2018 primary in which Elrich beat Blair by 77 votes to win his first term. In 2018, Elrich, a longtime political figure who has used the county’s public financing system in both 2018 and 2022, also had to wait days before learning whether he had beaten Blair, a businessman from Potomac who has spent millions of dollars of his own money to finance both attempts to win the Democratic nomination for the county’s top political office.

The primary winner will face Reardon Sullivan, former chair of the county’s Republican Central Committee, in the November general election. With Democrats outnumbering Republicans by about 4 to 1 in voter registration in the county, either Democrat would be the favorite to beat Sullivan in the general election.