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Campaign 2020

Politicsby Ian Round9:47 amJun 6, 20200

Returns trickling in show Dixon’s lead holding, but Scott gaining

“There’s only so many ballots you can scan – it takes time,” Baltimore elections director Armstead Jones says, as his staff continues the count

Above: Attorney Alan Dunklow, deputy director Abigail Goldman and director Armstead Jones confer during the Baltimore Board of Elections vote canvass. (Ian Round)

City Election Board staffers continued their work on the long, dragged-out 2020 primary yesterday, beginning to open ballots in their West Baltimore warehouse.

And at about 10:30 p.m., some of their work product was discernible on the State Board of Elections’ website:

Mayoral candidate Sheila Dixon’s lead over City Council President Brandon Scott had shrunk by nearly 1,000 votes and now stands at 3,623.

Scott gained on Dixon, as the former mayor’s lead went from 30.5%  to 24.7% initial results to 29.9% to 26.0%, as of last night’s reporting.

Scott campaign staffers say young people tend to vote later, and they tend to favor Scott. With more than 50,000 ballots yet to be counted, they think they can close the margin.

In the comptroller’s race, Friday’s numbers showed Councilman Bill Henry slightly expanding his lead over incumbent Joan Pratt; he leads 52.6% to 47.4%.

Leading in a one-on-one citywide race, Henry has the most votes of any candidate in Baltimore, with 44,748.

City Council races changed very little.

Councilman Robert Stokes, of the 12th District, saw his lead over Phillip Westry shrink slightly, from about 12% to 10%.

The race for the 4th District seat, which Henry currently occupies, remains tight between Mark Conway and Logan Endow. Conway’s lead increased to 104 votes, after Wednesday’s results put him 47 votes ahead.

12,000 Ballots Counted Friday

With a week to go before the deadline to certify the election, officials resumed counting primary ballots Friday, after devoting Thursday to the “reconstruction” of mistyped 1st District ballots.

Baltimore City elections director Armstead Jones said he is adding some staff this weekend, but he doesn’t want too many people counting ballots in its 301 North Franklintown Road warehouse, even if it would speed up the results.

“I’m not getting anyone sick,” he said.

They counted about 12,000 ballots Friday, and more than 50,000 remain to be counted, Jones said late in the afternoon. About 137,000 Baltimoreans have voted, Jones said, and some ballots are still coming in.

“I’m not getting anyone sick”  – Armstead Jones, on why he won’t add staff to the weekend ballot count, even if it speeds up results.

The early results were based on about 75,000 mail-in and in-person ballots. Several thousand ballots were undeliverable, but were counted as votes. No provisional ballots have been counted yet.

“We’ll be finished by the 12th,” Jones said. “There’s only so many ballots you can scan. It takes time.”

Candidates’ Critique

Malcolm Heflin, an organizer with Progressive Maryland, observed the canvass on behalf of 4th District City Council candidate Logan Endow.

Heflin, as well as others affiliated with campaigns, expressed confidence in the canvassing process, after a less-than-inspiring rollout of the state’s first election held mostly by mail.

Heflin said the city and state boards of elections, as well as the company that printed and mailed the ballots, were responsible for the delays, misprints and other errors – not the people counting ballots on plastic folding tables.

“The true tragedy was how it was managed in the first place,” Heflin said.

Paris Bienert, who ran against 1st District Councilman Zeke Cohen, also said she trusted the process. Tuesday night’s initial results showed Bienert with 98% of the vote, before the data were removed from the State Board of Elections website.

“I’m sure that it’s gonna be a fair count at this point,” she said.

Bienert rejected the idea that the vote-by-mail system itself was the reason for the delays and mistakes. Citizens voting in person would have used the same misprinted ballots, she said. She also agreed with Cohen when he denounced state elections director Linda Lamone’s comments about anti-police brutality protests making the count more difficult.

Jones told The Brew on Thursday that he pushed the Maryland State Board of Elections to fix the 1st District ballot issue, and he had the emails to prove it. But the next day, he declined to provide those emails.

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