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.