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Politicsby Fern Shen5:36 pmMay 12, 20160

At state’s behest, city election officials rescind Baltimore’s primary results

Citing irregularities, city and state election officials begin precinct-level review of the April 26 primary

Above: The scene outside one of Baltimore’s early voting locations, 1111 East Cold Spring Lane, last month. (Fern Shen)

The State Board of Elections, concerned about irregularities in Baltimore’s April 26 primary, today advised city election officials to rescind the results they had certified.

“Some of the ways this had been reported are not quite right. The state never certified this election,” said deputy administrator of the Maryland Election Board Nikki Charlson.

But Charlson said state election officials did become concerned when they noticed something odd this week as they conducted their normal post-election reconciliation, a process undertaken for all Maryland jurisdictions.

“We compared the number of voters who checked in at the polls and the number of ballots scanned, and there was an unusual level of discrepancy in some Baltimore precincts,” Charlson told The Brew.

She said some discrepancies are normal. Voters sometimes check in and, for whatever reason, leave without voting. They are referred to as “fleeing voters.” Whenever the discrepancy is unusual high, it triggers concern, she said.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, city election officials discovered that 80 provisional ballots had not been “reviewed,” Charlson said. (Reviewing is the process undertaken to decide whether a provisional ballot ought to be counted.)

Did the state order the city to rescind the certification?

“The combined effect of these two discoveries is the reason why the city is rescinding its certification today,” Charlton said.”We are on a parallel path.”

Close Council Races

State and city election officials were in Baltimore today to begin “a precinct-level review,” according to Charlson. She said the process may not be concluded until the middle of next week.

The nullification of Baltimore’s vote comes just one day after former mayor Sheila Dixon said she won’t challenge the results of the mayor’s race, which she lost by a narrow margin to Sen. Catherine E. Pugh.

The mayor’s race results, as finalized by city election officials last Friday, had Dixon losing to Pugh by 2,449 votes. She was said to have captured 34.7% of the vote to Pugh’s 36.6%.

But it was just one of the close races in an unusually dynamic election year in Baltimore, in which incumbents decided not to run or were defeated.

Three Council races were also tight: District 5, where Betsy Gardner lost to Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer; District 10, where Charlie Metz lost to incumbent Councilman Edward Reisinger; and District 12, where Kelly Cross lost to Robert Stokes Sr.

Cross today released a statement about the results being rescinded.

“I applaud the state’s decision to investigate the self-evident problems with this election, and will work with officials in Annapolis in any way necessary as part of their inquiry,” he said. “While I do not know what the ultimate outcome may be, I believe that elections – the exercise of our most basic civic right – must be beyond reproach. This is especially true in close races, where problems may directly affect the final outcome.”

Not just candidates but a coalition of citizens have been trying to call attention to irregularities in the voting, ranging from missing thumb drives with voting data to campaign workers driven to the polls during early voting.

The NAACP, the Rev. Cortly “C.D.” Witherspoon and Hassan Giordano, a Dixon volunteer, last week called on Gov. Larry Hogan to request that the Office of the State Prosecutor appoint an independent investigator to review the administration of Baltimore’s primary.

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