By Friday evening we may know the winner in the too-close-to call race for the Democratic nomination for Baltimore County Executive.
This follows legal wrangling Thursday between attorneys for Johnny Olszewski and State Senator Jim Brochin over how to handle hundreds of rejected provisional ballots.
At the Baltimore County Board of Elections Thursday, lawyers and campaign officials for Olszewski and Brochin huddled in offices or out in the lobby to map out their legal strategy. Just 42 votes separate the two in the race for the party’s nomination.
Olszewski asked for a close review of more than 900 provisional ballots that had already been rejected by the county board.
But Charles Scheeler, an attorney for Brochin, said provisional ballots are usually rejected for generic reasons so a review would just be doing the election board staff’s work all over again. Scheeler said there was no reason to delay the vote count.
“We’re entitled to what the public wants," Scheeler said. "Which is simply, an announcement, who won? Count the votes, finish it and tell us who won.”
But Scheeler’s challenge was shot down by the county elections board attorney Andrew Bailey.
In a faceoff in the lobby of the board of elections office, Bailey cut off Scheeler when he wanted to make a suggestion.
“I’m making a statement I’m not taking questions,” Bailey said. “My statement is to the effect that it is our position that Maryland statute and regulation permits proceeding as we have laid out."
And that was to give Olszewski the review he wanted. Olszewski campaign manager Tucker Cavanaugh said they want to make sure every vote is counted.
"And it's counted accurately especially with the concerns about ther MVA data," Cavanaugh said.
On the eve of the primary it was announced that as many as 80,000 people statewide would have to cast provisional ballots because they had made a change in address or party affiliation through the MVA. And that information was not passed along to the state elections board. Bailey said they’ve looked for those voters in Baltimore County.
"We’re checking our data base, we’re checking the overlay MVA list, to make sure every voter who properly was registered, that vote will be counted,” Bailey said.
County Elections Board Director Katie Brown said they found fewer than 200 Democratic and Republican voters who were caught up in the MVA glitch.
As Olszewski requested, Brown walked representatives of the campaigns through samples of the rejected provisionals. The third candidate in the race, County Councilwoman Vicki Almond, had a representative there as well. Almond is about 1,000 votes behind Olszewski and Brochin. After the review, Cavenaugh said they are satisfied and don’t expect to challenge the rejected provisional ballots Friday.
“After this review, I have 1000 percent confidence that they’re going to count every vote,” Cavanaugh said.
Brochin attorney Tim Hodge agreed.
"We believe the process continues to be transparent and fair, and the elections board is making every effort to have every vote count," Hodge said.
That doesn’t mean that individual ballots that are being counted Friday cannot be challenged, and the campaigns will be monitoring the vote count.
So here are the numbers. There are roughly 2,000 provisional and absentee votes that are expected to be counted Friday. As mentioned before, Olszewski leads Brochin by 42 votes. Almond is about 1,000 votes behind. Almond campaign manager Mandee Heinl said they still hold out hope although they are not unrealistic.
If all goes as planned, we should know by Friday evening, a week and a half after the primary, who will be Republican Al Redmer’s opponent in the general election.
Unless, of course, there is a recount.