Moving into the final phase
Canvassing of mail-in ballots for primary voting is slated to get underway today
The next phase of Maryland’s 2022 primary will kick off Thursday as elections offices across the state begin canvassing the hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots cast.
Thus far, returns from in-person voting, both early and on primary day, have painted an incomplete picture of several key races across the state. The Associated Press declared gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox the Republican nominee, but the race for the Democratic nomination for governor remains too close to call with at least 168,873 Democratic mail-in ballots still uncounted.
By law, counting of mail-in ballots in Maryland cannot start until 10 a.m. on the Thursday
following an election, a rule that predates the widespread use of mail-in ballots that began amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The numerous mail-in ballots received during the 2020 presidential election were actually counted earlier. A measure passed on an emergency basis allowed local boards of elections to begin canvassing ballots weeks ahead of time.
Local elections directors across the state on Wednesday said they were ready to begin intense counting operations that likely will include at least some of the upcoming weekend.
“We are going to canvass very aggressively,” said Ruie Lavoie, elections director for Baltimore County. She said county officials plan to begin Thursday morning and count until roughly 7 p.m. More than 35,000 mail-in ballots out of about 70,500 requested by county voters were cast by Monday.
“We’re going to start and we’re going to just keep going,” Lavoie said. “We’re planning on working straight through the weekend.”
The tallies from 12 Baltimore precincts remain to be returned after in-person voting concluded, as officials look for flash drives that weren’t turned in from some polling places Tuesday night, Baltimore Election Director Armstead Jones said.
Final results hinge on the mail-in ballots that elections officials are slated to begin counting Thursday morning. So far, they have received 22,000 of the 44,000 ballots that were sent out.
Bates and Vignarajah are challenging Mosby for the second time, having lost handily to her in the 2018 primary. This time, Bates is out to an early and sizable lead. He described himself as “cautiously optimistic” in a phone interview Wednesday.
“I’m just really thankful and humbled for the outpouring of support from so many of our citizens of Baltimore,” Bates said.
Jones said his crew of up to 25 people will
tally votes until 6 p.m. Thursday. It could take several days to know the final results: the Baltimore City Board of Elections will determine whether officials continue to tally votes into the weekend, said Jones, who added that he was considering recommending Saturday, but not Sunday.
“Everyone is tired,” Jones said. At separate campaign events Tuesday night, Bates and Mosby also expressed a sense of exhaustion. Neither claimed victory or conceded.
“We don’t know the outcome,” Bates told supporters at an event in Charles Village. “It’s clearly in God’s hands.”
The crowd, filled with people wearing navy-blue Bates’ campaign T-shirts, shouted back: “We got this!”
“I don’t count my chickens before they hatch,” Bates said. “What I do know is this: If we are blessed enough to win, we have a lot of work to do for the city. We made a lot of promises and plans.”
About a mile away from Bates’ event, Mosby addressed supporters and reporters
at Melba’s Place, a nightclub in Baltimore’s Abell neighborhood, around 11:40 p.m.
“It’s going to be a while before we know who won this race,” Mosby said. “But what we do know is that this race is not over.”
Her supporters chimed in, shouting: “You won!”
“I never thought that this was going to be an easy race,” Mosby continued. “It’s never been easy. And when you are trying to implement change, there’s always going to be resistance.”
Mosby deferred comment to a campaign spokesperson.
“There are still thousands of votes to be counted, and we will fight until every single vote from every single precinct has been accounted for,” said Robyn Murphy, a spokesperson for the campaign.
Kromer said the early voting and election-day returns showed Mosby still has a solid base, saying the percentage of votes she garnered reflected the 30% approval rating she earned in survey conducted for the online news site The Baltimore Banner
by the Goucher College Poll.
“The question is ‘how many more votes are out there for her?’” Kromer said.
Mosby’s campaign has been clouded by her federal indictment on perjury and mortgage fraud charges. Federal prosecutors allege she lied about having suffered financially from the coronavirus to withdraw $90,000 from her retirement savings under the CARES Act and used the money to make down payments on two properties in Florida. Federal prosecutors say she also lied on loan applications for those homes.
Despite the early and election day returns not going the way Vignarajah’s team wanted, he said Wednesday that his campaign is holding out hope.
“We are obviously behind, but there are somewhere between 20 and 40,000 votes left to be counted,” Vignarajah said in an interview. “We do see a path to victory — none of this was ever going to be easy. We remain hopeful.”