It ain’t over. We all knew it wasn’t, maybe some hoped it was, but we all knew it wasn’t.
The 2018 Democratic Primary race for Montgomery County Executive came down to just 80 votes, with Councilmember Marc Elrich being declared the winner. On Thursday afternoon, the political newcomer David Blair officially filed for a recount of the primary election votes.
According to a statement from the Blair Campaign, Blair has the campaign has filed a formal petition with the Board of Elections for a recount of the June 2018 Primary Election results.
Over the last several weeks, the Blair campaign has closely reviewed the results of the 2018 Primary Election, said the statement.
The Montgomery County Board of Elections has certified Elrich’s victory on Monday, July 16 and shortly before the results were certified the Blair camp signaled that they would be looking into challenging the results. The combination of glitches by the MVA voter registration and the fact that just 80 votes separated the winner from second place made a move to recount almost inevitable.
“We have analyzed the election results by precinct, reviewed the treatment of thousands of provisional ballots, and spoken with hundreds of individual voters who experienced difficulties registering to vote or casting their ballots,” said David Blair, “and while it is certainly unclear whether a recount will affect the outcome, we believe the narrow margin coupled with the numerous issues impacting the election make a recount appropriate.”
This year’s Primary Election was impacted by a variety of unusual circumstances. Most notably, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) technical errors that affected thousands of Montgomery County residents. The MVA issues caused delays and, in some cases, lost or failed voter registrations and resulted in a significant increase of provisional ballots cast over prior elections. The MVA issues also had a deterrent effect that caused an untold number of legally registered voters to leave polling places without casting ballots, and it resulted in the rejection of valid provisional ballots. Of the 3,616 provisional ballots cast in this year’s Primary Election, 955 or 26.4 percent were rejected in the County Executive race.
“Our chief concern centers on the 955 provisional ballots that were rejected by the Board of Elections in the County Executive Race as these rejected ballots disproportionately impact our supporters,” said Blair.
According to the statement, the recount process does not provide a legal avenue for the campaign to get these votes counted. “However, David joins the voters of Montgomery County in being frustrated with the breakdown in process that led to their disenfranchisement and pledges to continue to work with the appropriate officials to fix this error,” said the Blair Campaign press release.
The statement from the Blair Campaign says, “During the official canvass, members of the Montgomery County Board of Elections expressed their own concerns that poor data tied their hands and forced them to reject provisional ballots cast by individuals who swore to their longstanding status as registered Montgomery County voters. It is important that the State of Maryland work in cooperation with the Montgomery County Board of Elections to reach out to voters whose ballots may have been erroneously rejected to ensure the MVA database accurately reflects their most current voter registration and that every vote is counted.
The Blair campaign has requested a partial recount of the election results to include provisional and absentee ballots as well as a select number of precincts. It is expected that the recount by the Board of Elections will take several days. The campaign encourages individual voters whose ballots remain incorrectly rejected to seek administrative relief to rehabilitate their votes and to use the campaign as a resource should they need any help in this process.
Darnestown resident Blair is hoping to take the top spot from Marc Elrich, and face Republican Robin Ficker and newly announced Independent candidate Nancy Floreen. She must collect signatures from at least one percent of Montgomery County’s eligible voters, meaning she’ll have to gather more than 6,400 names by August 6.
Boyds resident Robin Ficker is the Republican nominee. He ran unopposed in June’s primary. If Floreen is successful in garnering enough signatures to appear on the ballot it may be a three-way race. However, there is a chance that if Blair’s recount is successful in flipping the Democratic nominee, Floreen may decide not to run.
Floreen, 66, has served as an At-Large member County Council as a Democrat since she was first elected in 2002. She will be forced out the At-Large Council seat by the County’s newly implemented term limits. Before serving on the County Council, Floreen served as the chair of the council’s Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee. She is also a former mayor of Garrett Park.
However, in her statement, Floreen said that she was “determined to give Montgomery County a third, independent choice come November.”
“The critical interests of Montgomery County families are ill-served when any candidate can prevail with barely 29 percent of the one-third of Democrats who turned out, the Republicans had no choice at all, and the county’s 150,000 independent voters were prevented by law from voting in either contest. There is no mandate here. Most county voters have yet to be heard from,” said Floreen.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.