Category Archives: 2022 Demcratic Primary

Recount Analysis

The Board of Elections has reported the recount results from the early vote as well as all but one of the election districts. David Blair has gained two votes and Marc Elrich has gained one vote. This is bad news for Blair as these were the two sections of the recount most likely to benefit him through closer examination of overvotes—ballots that contained more than one vote for county executive.

In the initial count, these ballots from the early and Election Day vote are run through the counting machine without closer examination. Overvotes are tallied but counted as invalid. But once in a while, closer examination can reveal that the intent of the voter is clear despite an overvote. The ballot may have an “x” through the vote for one candidate that indicates that the voter didn’t mean to vote for that person.

These sorts of ballots would have allowed Al Gore to win the 2000 presidential election.

But changes in how we vote since then have reduced the number of these ballots. During early and Election Day voting in Montgomery, voters must feed their ballots into a machine that gives voters a chance to correct mistakes if there are any overvotes. Some voters cast their ballots on machines (that create a paper record and ballot) that do not allow overvotes. The result is that fewer early and Election Day ballots contain these sorts of problems, which is why only three ballots changed..

The potential for these problems is far greater in mail-in ballots but these ballots were already assessed as they were counted. The Board of Elections has already ruled on any ballots with overvotes, following the extremely detailed set of guidelines from the state. Even though these ballots almost certainly contain a higher share of overvotes, the potential for change is quite low.

Good news for Elrich.


102 More Ballots in MoCo!

The Board of Elections has found an additional 102 provisional ballots that it failed to count—enough to change the outcome of the county executive race. But David Blair would have to win an outsized share of them to overtake Marc Elrich’s 42 vote lead. The ballots are from four precincts in Germantown and four in Wheaton. The Board will count the ballots and certify the election on Saturday. Then it’s on to the recount.

Here is the press release from the Board:

For Immediate Release: Thursday, August 11, 2022


Montgomery County’s Acting Election Director, Alysoun McLaughlin, tonight released the following statement:

“Our precertification audit identified additional provisional ballots to be counted and the Board of Elections will be unable to certify the election as scheduled at its meeting tomorrow afternoon.”

“Before asking the Board to certify any election, our staff conducts a comprehensive precertification audit. That audit includes an inspection of a random sampling of ballot envelopes and a reconciliation of the total number of voters who cast a ballot against the number of ballots scanned.”

“Today, we pulled our random sample of empty provisional ballot envelopes for audit and were unable to locate one of the randomly selected envelopes where it should have been. In addition, we were unable to resolve a discrepancy between the number of provisional ballots that our staff had recommended that the Board accept, and the number of ballots scanned.”

“Together, these two pieces of information prompted a visual search of folders where provisional ballots had been stored prior to the canvass. Those folders contained 102 unopened, sealed ballot envelopes that were never removed from their folders and presented to the canvass from the following precincts:

  •  Precinct 06-10 – 1 ballot 
  •  Precinct 06-11 – 1 ballot
  •  Precinct 06-13 – 14 ballots
  •  Precinct 06-14 – 7 ballots
  •  Precinct 06-15 – 15 ballots
  •  Precinct 13-56 – 12 ballots
  •  Precinct 13-57 – 10 ballots
  •  Precinct 13-58 – 30 ballots
  •  Precinct 13-59 – 12 ballots

“I apologize for this error and for not identifying it until today, or the remaining ballots could have been counted earlier. I want to emphasize that Maryland’s comprehensive precertification audit was designed to identify issues like this before an election is certified to ensure the accuracy of the results. It worked as intended.” 

“I will finish reviewing the rest of the audit to ensure that there are no further discrepancies before I ask the Board of Elections to certify the results of the election. The Board will meet at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, August 12, and we will discuss the findings of our audit and the schedule for canvass and certification.”

Your Voice, Your Vote!

Media Contact: Gilberto Zelaya, 240-777-8625


42 Votes. Will the Recount Change the Outcome?

Probably not. Here’s why.

Ballots are cast in three different ways. Recounting them is unlikely to change matters.

The first type is cast on DRE machines that directly record the vote electronically. Adding them up again will produce the exact same results.

The second type is bubble-filled paper ballots cast at the polling place or by mail that have been inserted into machines. Those should also produce the same results with only a slightly greater but still very small possibility for change.

Some mail ballots that have overvotes (i.e. the voter filled in voters for more than one candidate). The Board of Elections has already ruled on these ballots, applying the sensible, legal standard based on the intent of the voter. For example, if a voter filled in two bubbles but put an x through Candidate A, it will be counted for Candidate B. Ballots with no clear indication of voter intent will not be counted for any candidate. The Board will apply its decisions in the same manner as during the count.

The final ballot type is votes sent in electronically. In these cases, the votes were transferred from the electronically mailed form to a paper ballot and then fed into counting machines. There is seemingly greater chance for error here except that this process was done very carefully with two separate people overseeing the copying to make sure it was done correctly. I don’t know if the recount allows for examination the copying of these votes on to paper ballots, but it is very likely to change more than a very small number of votes—fewer than needed to change the outcome.

The only potential source of change I can see is if the Board of Elections discovers a missing DRE memory stick or stack of ballots. That is also highly unlikely. One reason that the count took so long was that the Board was being extra careful due to the tightness of the county executive race.

Some of the more extreme Blair supporters (but not Blair) are calling for him to fight to get more provisional ballots included. Except that my understanding is that Montgomery has already counted a far higher proportion of provisional ballots than elsewhere—90% as compared to the 68% state average. That means there are relatively few left and those that are left were excluded for very clear legal reasons, such as the voter was not registered with the party or changed their registration too late to vote in the party’s primary this year.

Alternatively, I suppose Blair could go to court to fight to get other votes excluded. Both approaches are way to reminiscent of “Stop the Steal” for my taste. The Blair campaign has been wise to steer utterly clear of them even as it pursues its legal right and utterly reasonable request for a recount due to the tightness of the election results.

UPDATE: See new post with some corrections.


Elrich Up by 198, Mail Count Complete

The latest totals came out tonight. According to the Montgomery County Board of Elections Twitter account, all mail ballots have been counted and they’ve started on provisionals. The entire count is hopefully going to be completed tomorrow.

The total number of mail ballot votes currently reported is 61,581. That compares to a total 63,626 returned Democratic mail ballots. My guess is that The totals now include all of the mail ballots as not everyone votes in every contest. But it’s hard to know for sure. Alternatively, there might be some provisionals in the count.

There are roughly 7000 provisional ballots. David Blair would have to win an estimated 2.9% more than Marc Elrich (assuming that all are valid counted) in order to catch up. This is possible but we’ll have to see how the count ends up.

Elrich has a smaller lead in numerical term than Blair did on election night but there are far fewer votes left to count. The share of remaining votes that Blair needs to get (assuming that no provisionals are thrown out) is now a bit higher than needed by Elrich after election night.

It’s certainly looking a lot better for Elrich than it did on election night but we’ll have to wait and see how the race ends up. It remains well within the free recount zone.


Elrich Makes Strong Gains in Mail Vote but Still Trails

The first tranche of mail ballots is in and they were very good for incumbent County Executive Marc Elrich.

Going into tonight, Elrich trailed by 1,191 votes. The addition of just 4,101 valid votes from mail ballots has now cut David Blair’s lead down to 550 votes. Blair added just 1,376 (33.6%) votes to 2,017 (49.2%) for Elrich. Tens of thousands more mail ballots still have yet to be counted along with provisional ballots.

Though excellent news for Elrich, a strong dose of caution is merited. If the Board of Elections is indeed counting ballots from earliest to latest received, this means that their composition could well change. In other words, this is not a random sample of mail ballots.

Folks, like last time, it looks like we’re going to have wait to know the result.


Counting Continues

If you like watching paint dry, you’ll love the livestream of the counting of mail ballots in Montgomery County. It’s after 10pm and we’re still waiting for the first tranche of the mail vote. It looks like they are working late and hard to get more ballots counted.

MoCo has the most mail ballots in the state. Most counties with fewer ballots finished earlier and have already counted all of their mail ballots. The other places that have yet to report are Baltimore City and County along with Charles, Frederick, Howard and Washington Counties. Prince George’s has reported but still has more to count.

I’m told that Montgomery is counting from earliest to most recent received. As a result, it’s less clear that the results from the first batch with be the similar to the following one.


Can Elrich Win? Here’s the Math

Once again, Marc Elrich and David Blair are in a tight race for the Democratic nomination for county executive. Can Marc Elrich catch up?

The results from Montgomery County can be found on the Maryland State Board of Elections website. After election night, Blair has 28,961 votes (39.6%) and Elrich has 27,770 votes (38.0%)–a lead of 1,191 votes (1.6%).

Before I get further into the details, many are wondering which precincts have not reported yet because the page states 246 of 258 election day precincts reporting. This is a glitch. If you go to the page for the entire state, it reports correctly that results from all 258 have been tallied.

Due to the expansion of mail voting, including the addition of the ability to opt to vote by mail in every election, the number of mail ballots has ballooned considerably from four years ago. The estimate of the number of mail ballots on the Board of Elections website is far from complete because it includes only mail ballots that have been initially processed (but still not included in the vote tally).

I’m hearing that the Board of Elections guesses that they had received around 10,000 ballots more than listed on the site as of election day. Additionally, any ballots received over the next ten days that were postmarked on election day or earlier will be counted. The count also does not include ballots placed in drop boxes on election day, which I understand had heavy use, or provisional ballots.

We can roughly guesstimate that there will be around 50,000 additional ballots. That’s a lot considering that only 73,087 valid votes were cast in the race for county executive so far. Elrich needs to win 1,192 votes (2.4%) more than Blair to catch up.

Can this happen? I’d rather be in Blair’s position and leading, but it’s possible. After all, Blair led Elrich by 316 votes (0.6%) in the election day vote but by 875 votes (4.3%) in the early vote.

I can easily imagine scenarios that are good for both candidates. Mail votes often tend to follow election day votes. The mail vote might resemble the early vote since both were cast before the election. In either case, Blair wins.

On the other hand, one can also spin scenarios that are good for Elrich. Mail voters might be voters that are especially cautious due to the pandemic and especially appreciate his managing of it. They may also differ in some demographic that skews in his direction.

So maybe I was a little hasty to write yesterday that “My guess is that’s too much for Elrich to make up in mail ballots.” Though it still appears more likely than not to turn out that way, Blair’s lead is not insurmountable.

The bottom line is that we’ll just have to be very patient and wait for the votes to be counted. We’ll have a better idea of where this race is likely to end up once we know the total number of mail and provisional ballots as well as how they are trending from the first counts.