Blair Cuts Into Elrich’s Lead After First Count of Absentee Ballots

Blair Cuts Into Elrich’s Lead After First Count of Absentee Ballots

The two Democratic county executive candidates are now separated by 269 votes with three more absentee and provisional ballot counts remaining

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Count watchers look on in the middle blue square as 15 teams of two people each review absentee ballots at the Montgomery County Board of Elections Thursday afternoon. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Potomac businessman David Blair cut into County Council member Marc Elrich’s lead in the Democratic primary for Montgomery County executive after the first count of absentee ballots Thursday.

Elrich, of Takoma Park, is now holding onto a 269-vote lead after the county’s Board of Elections Thursday counted 3,140 absentee ballot in the race. Elrich stands at 35,657 votes overall to Blair’s 35,388, according to the latest primary election results posted to the board’s website. Heading into the first count after Tuesday’s primary, Elrich led Blair by 452 votes.

The margin remains too slim for a clear victor to be called.

Total vote count in the Montgomery County executive Democratic primary after the initial absentee canvass Thursday. Credit: Montgomery County Board of Elections

In the tight race for the third delegate seat in the District 16 Democratic primary, teacher Samir Paul of Bethesda saw his 118-vote lead over former ACLU public policy director Sara Love cut to 39 votes after the absentee ballot count. Paul has 10,671 votes to Love’s 10,632.

"If you're not nervous in a situation like this, you're crazy," Paul said while at the board's Gaithersburg offices Thursday afternoon. "But I feel confident that we ran a really great race that made a great impression on a lot of people. The votes have been cast, now it's just about waiting around until it's counted."

Blair's campaign manager Mark Nardone was also at the offices Thursday afternoon. He said he was there to "focus on the process and make sure every vote counts."

The board plans to finish the first absentee ballot count Friday, which includes another approximately 1,600 ballots, according to Marjorie Roher, spokeswoman for the board. On July 5, an additional 3,614 provisional ballots will be counted. Voters cast provisional ballots if there is an issue with their voter registration status or information.

On July 6, a second canvass will take place to count the absentee ballots received by the board after June 21. All ballots postmarked on or before primary election day will be counted.

Uncounted absentee ballots inside a cage at the Board of Elections. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Fifteen teams comprised of two people each opened and reviewed the first batch of absentee ballots Thursday afternoon at the board’s offices to make sure each one was signed by the voter and received on time, according to board chair Jim Shalleck.

If a team encountered an issue involving voter intent—such as a smudged bubble or a vote crossed out—the board reviewed it and made a decision regarding whether to count the vote, Shalleck said. He noted the board reviewed a “number” of ballots.

After the ballots were reviewed, they were taken to two digital ESS DS850 scanners, which counted the votes.

The teams reviewed ballots from 1 to around 6:30 p.m. and then recessed for the night. The absentee ballots reviewed Thursday were those received by the board by June 21.

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