2022 | Politics

Elrich’s lead grows to 198 votes over Blair as counting of mail-in ballots is completed

Democratic race for Montgomery County executive remains tight as canvassers tackle provisional ballots Saturday

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Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and challenger David Blair

Submitted photos

Incumbent Marc Elrich’s lead expanded to 198 votes over challenger David Blair in the Democratic primary for county executive as canvassers completed their tally Friday of the remaining mail-in ballots.

According to results reported to the State Board of Elections, Elrich has 53,224 votes (39.29% of ballots cast) to Blair’s 53,026 votes (39.14%). That means Elrich’s lead increased from 154 to 198 votes heading into the final days of counting and canvassing.

On Friday, county election workers and canvassers continued the tedious work of reviewing and counting the last round of mail-in ballots — well over 4,000 — and beginning the review and counting of provisional ballots at Montgomery College’s Germantown campus. Gilberto Zelaya, a spokesman for the Board of Elections, said that the counting of all mail-in ballots — roughly 75,000 in total — had been completed by early Friday afternoon, 17 days after the July 19 primary. Friday marked the 11th day of canvassing since the counting of mail-in ballots began July 21.

There are well over 7,000 provisional ballots to process, but Kevin Karpinski, attorney for the county’s Board of Elections, and other county election officials have said that they hope to complete canvassing all of them by the end of Saturday. The provisional ballots, as was the case with the mail-in ballots, will then be transported less than 3 miles from the Germantown campus to the elections board’s office in Gaithersburg in order to be scanned and tabulated. 

Results are then sent to the State Board of Elections, which posts the tally on its website. Since the canvassing began, the website has been closely watched by candidates, supporters and voters anxious to know the results.  

Alysoun McLaughlin, the county’s acting election director, has said she expects to meet the goal of certifying the primary election results by Aug. 12. Once the election results have been certified by the county elections board, candidates have three days to request a recount.

Under Maryland law, if results of the winning and second-place candidates are within .25% or less, the recount is free to the candidate who requests it. Even though Elrich is currently in the lead, he said in a news briefing Wednesday he would request a recount if Blair beat him within that margin.

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.

County Council Member at-large Hans Riemer, the other major candidate in this year’s Democratic race for executive, conceded a day after the polls closed July 19. Friday’s count put him at 26,914 votes (19.87%). Peter James, a tech CEO, is in fourth place with 2,307 votes (1.7%).

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.

Election workers and canvassers, despite the monotony of counting and reviewing tens of thousands of ballots — many of which required workers to physically copy results from one ballot onto another clean ballot — were in an upbeat mood Friday in the counting room at the Germantown campus. They worked at dozens of tables, with canvassers periodically calling over election workers to help them examine ballots or to request clean ballots related to a certain precinct.