The political battle over who will be the Democratic nominee for Baltimore County Executive enters its next phase Monday, with the first step towards an inevitable recount.
Late Friday, former Delegate Johnny Olszewski claimed a nine vote win over State Senator Jim Brochin.
When Olszewski claimed victory, he was congratulated by one of his attorneys, Andy Levy.
“Eight more votes than you needed,” Levy told Olszewski.
But in the days ahead, we’ll find out if Olszewski does have the votes to win the nomination. Brochin said he will ask for a recount, saying human error is a way of life. Brochin said he would like to have every paper ballot manually recounted county wide. Brochin said the state uses a verified paper trail in elections for this very reason.
“This is a great test case of taking actual paper ballots and comparing them with the computer, which I don’t know a better way,” Brochin said.
Brochin said they’ll find out more from the state elections board Monday, then discuss further how to proceed.
Baltimore County Elections Board attorney Andrew Bailey said the closeness of the race prompted the state board of elections to do a preliminary audit of the votes.
“They have extended the invitation to the candidates to contact them on Monday, that they would conduct a webinar to share with the candidates the results of their audit so far,” Bailey said.
According to Bailey, part of what the audit shows is that Olszewski may pick up five more votes due to what’s called an over vote. This is when a voter marked the ballot for two candidates in one race, so the scanner counted neither. But a second look shows the voter’s intent is clear. Say, there was just a small mark in the Brochin oval, but the Olszewski oval is fully filled in.
When Olszewski was asked whether he is ready to launch into the general election campaign against the Republican candidate, State Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Junior, he demurred.
“It’s been a long arduous campaign for all of us,” said Olszewski. “So I trust that everyone will step back and reflect and make decisions that’s best for them.”
Redmer acknowledged that all the attention Olszewski and Brochin are getting could help the eventual nominee when it comes to name recognition, but he adds there’s nothing he can do about that.
Redmer said it matters not to him which Democrat he ends up facing this fall.
“The board of elections they do a terrific job,” Redmer said. “And, count slowly, make sure you get it right. And we’ll deal with whoever the nominee happens to be.”
Redmer’s campaign currently is adding volunteers and plotting fundraising strategy for the general election.
Around 2,000 provisional and absentee ballots were counted and run through scanners Friday, as the Democratic nomination hung in the balance
It was high political drama. At one point, there was a snafu and absentee ballots had to be rescanned because the number of physical ballots and those scanned were off by three. So on the rescan, there needed to be exactly 909 ballots. When it hit that number on the nose, campaign staffers breathed a sign of relief and elections board staffers who were doing the scanning gave each other high fives.
Then a couple of hours later, with Olszewki up by only seven votes, the provisional ballot count was announced by county elections board president Paul Lubell. Dozens of campaign staffers, attorneys, legislators, reporters, and vote counters listened as he announced the results from several vote scanners. Basic math was being performed around the room, as people put pen to paper to tally up the numbers.
The end result: Olszewski’s nine vote lead. Now comes the recount. Once the election is certified in the next week or so, Brochin has three days to petition for that.