With at least one key race hanging in the balance, the Montgomery County Board of Elections is still processing mail-in ballots, three days after the close of polls. After Thursday’s canvass, around 57,000 ballots still needed to be processed, according to Montgomery County Board of Elections Secretary David Naimon.
Election judges and officials gathered Friday at the Germantown campus of Montgomery College to continue processing votes.
Naimon said canvassers processed about 10,000 votes Thursday, and Board of Elections staff scanned about 14,000 of about 23,000 ballots that were processed in pre-election canvasses.
The mail-in vote has decided – and may continue to decide – a few close elections. Del. Neil Parrott (R
The race for the District 5 seat on the Montgomery County Board of Education remains tight, with incumbent Brenda Wolff holding a slight lead over challenger Valerie Coll, at 50.98%. On Saturday morning, 5,448 votes separated the candidates, according to unofficial state election board results.
Wolff has shown a lead in early voting and mail-in ballot voting. If this trend continues, Wolff may pull through with a win once all mail-in ballots are processed.
Naimon said at least 117,000 mail-in ballots have been received so far. The Board of Elections will receive mail-in ballots until 10 a.m. Nov. 18, as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 8.
During the canvass Friday, Trone staffers monitoring the vote celebrated when they got the news Parrott had conceded. Naimon said representatives for Trone and Parrott as well as from the Republican National Committee had been in and out to observe the canvass Thursday and Friday.
At the canvass, bipartisan teams go through each ballot to ensure it was filled out properly. If there is an issue with a ballot where it is not obvious who the voter intended to vote for, that ballot is referred to the Board of Elections. The board meets to assess these problematic ballots at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. and try to decipher the voter’s intent.
Naimon said the issues with ballots can vary. Sometimes a voter has not filled in bubbles correctly and it’s not clear who the vote is for.
One of the goals of the Board of Elections is to make sure that every vote that can count, does count.
“Our goal is to not let a voter’s mistake get to the point where the vote doesn’t count unless we have no choice,” Naimon said. “If I mark a ballot for one candidate for governor, put an X through it and mark a candidate for another candidate for governor, then the board has to decide whether we think we can figure out what that means. Now if a voter draws an arrow to the one they want, that provides more clues for us to figure that out.”
However, sometimes a ballot can’t be counted, Naimon said. For example, if someone signs their name on the ballot, it can no longer be counted because it is not considered anonymous. And if someone fills in too many bubbles, that can be ruled as an overvote, which can’t be counted.
“Sometimes we have some distinct differences of agreement among the seven of us [board members] as to whether we think we can discern the intent or not,” Naimon said.
On Friday, the board had to make decisions about a couple of ballots. While the board unanimously agreed that one voter had chosen one candidate over another based on markings, the board disagreed on another ballot with two bubbles filled in and a candidate’s name written. While most members considered it an overvote, others thought it was clearly a vote for the candidate whose name was written.
If a ballot envelope is missing a signature on the oath, then the board tries to get in contact with the voter to “cure” the ballot.
Once a ballot is settled, it is sent back to the Montgomery County Board of Elections where it is scanned into the system and considered counted. Those results are sent to the state board of elections, which updates the totals.
Naimon said the totals will be updated each night of canvassing. The canvassing schedule is available on the Board of Elections website, and the canvass is available to watch via Zoom.