Md. elections workers are still counting tens of thousands of ballots

November 18, 2022

The Washington Post

Rising popularity of mail-in ballots — and complications in counting them — has left some local races undecided 10 days after the election and prompted calls for reform.

Maryland election officials in several large counties blew past Friday’s normal deadline for certifying last week’s election results, digging out from an onslaught of mail-in votes as some races remained undecided 10 days after Election Day.

Headed into Thursday morning, more than 115,000 mail-in ballots — roughly 1 in 5 — had not been tallied statewide, according to the most recent data from the Maryland Board of Elections.

A handful of close state legislative and local offices lingered unresolved as elections workers grinded through more than 500,000 mail-in ballots, slowly revealing voters’ choices.

“It’s a bad way to do an election,” said Del. Trent M. Kittleman (R-Howard), who started with a more than 2,000-vote lead that shrank as mail-in ballots in her Howard County district were tallied. Friday, she finally learned she was likely to lose out on a third term in the Maryland General Assembly by about 16 votes. The delay, she said, “really has shocked almost everyone I’ve talked to.”

The outcome — even after the Maryland State Board of Elections secured a judge’s permission for workers to confidentially tally ballots early — builds on frustrations over a primary season marked by lengthy delays. Voters’ increasing use of mail-in ballots has taxed the state’s election infrastructure and prompted lawmakers to call for change.

Other races for the state legislature still hung in the balance late Friday, and elections officials had no estimate for when all the tallying might end. The traditional deadline for certifying results, set in law for Friday, is suspended when jurisdictions haven’t finished counting votes.

Two state senate races were finally determined Friday — flipping seats from Republican to Democrat — and widening the Democrats’ supermajority dominance in the Maryland Senate. In the House of Delegates, the Democratic caucus added two seats to last year’s supermajority of 99, and were on the cusp of adding a third as votes were tallied in Howard County.

Altogether, that would give Democrats 135-53 advantage in the General Assembly, alongside a full suite of Democrats in the top state jobs and all but one of Maryland’s 10-person congressional delegation.

Although the outcome of some races became clear Friday afternoon, the enormous volume of mail-in ballots will leave election officials in some places tallying votes until the last minute. (State law allows counties to certify results 48 hours after they finish counting if they’re not done by Friday.)

Montgomery County, for example, started canvassing again Friday morning with more than 30,000 ballots left to go — about a quarter of the total it received. Another counting session was scheduled for Saturday, three days of the following Thanksgiving week, and at least four days on the week after.