2022 | Politics

Elrich expands lead over Blair after ninth day of ballot counting

Tallying to continue Wednesday as Montgomery County executive race remains tight

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Canvassers at work at the Montgomery College campus in Germantown.

Steve Bohnel

Incumbent Marc Elrich expanded his lead over challenger David Blair in the Democratic primary for Montgomery County executive after the ninth day of canvassing, according to results released Tuesday night by the State Board of Elections.

Elrich gained 53 votes for a lead that now totals 173 votes. Elrich, who is facing Blair for the second time in four years, regained the lead from Blair on Monday when he came out 120 votes ahead upon the release of that day’s tally by the state elections board.

By Tuesday’s count, Elrich now has 50,765 votes, or 39.3%, to Blair’s 50,592, or 39.17%.

According to the county Board of Elections, nearly 8,400 ballots still need to be canvassed and tabulated out of a total of nearly 75,000 mail-in and provisional ballots that were received. Canvassing was expected to resume at 10 a.m. Wednesday, the county elections board wrote in a tweet Tuesday night.

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.

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 results by Aug. 12. Once the election results have been certified by the county Board of Elections, candidates have three days to request a recount.

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 July 19. The latest count put him at 25,623 votes or 19.84%.

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 July 21, two days after the July 19 primary election. Legislation to allow mail-in votes to be counted in advance of the primary was vetoed earlier this year by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Gilberto Zelaya, a spokesman for the county’s Board of Elections, wrote in a text Tuesday that mail-in ballots would be counted Tuesday and Wednesday, and the remaining provisional ballots would be counted Friday. Zelaya wrote that there were 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 number 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.

With the Democrats enjoying a 4-1 voter registration edge in the county, the ultimate winner of the county executive 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 Elrich and Blair.

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.

Elrich then regained the lead after Saturday’s count and continues to hold on to it as the candidates await Wednesday’s ballot counting.