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Baltimore city gathers votes from all precincts after flash drives misplaced

A voter fills out a provisional ballot by hand for the 2014 midterm elections at a polling place in Annapolis, Md. Early voting in Maryland begins Thursday, July 7th and continues through July 14th. The 2022 Maryland Gubernatorial Election takes place on Tuesday, July 19. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The 2022 Maryland Gubernatorial Election happened on Tuesday, July 19. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Update: As of Thursday morning, all precincts reported in-person voting totals and the flash drives were recovered.

As the Board of Election in Baltimore city tallies in-person voting, totals were delayed through Wednesday because flash drives were not returned by a dozen precincts.

That doesn’t mean votes are lost, just the storage device that holds an electronic copy of a scanned ballot, is missing for now.

When the polls close on election night, election judges are tasked to submit voting results, said Armstead Jones, the election director for Baltimore city.

Then the flash drives with the scanned ballots are supposed to be hand delivered when the voting equipment is returned from 296 precincts.

But after the polls closed the flash drives could not be immediately found. The ballot scanner machine keeps a backup record of votes.

“You would take another memory stick, unseal the scanner, retrieve the votes and put it on another thumb drive,” Jones said.

Voting precincts across the state struggled with lack of election judges and some delayed opening on Tuesday morning. Baltimore poll workers averaged 14 hour days and many judges are new to the process.

There were 284 precincts across Baltimore city which did turn in flash drives by Wednesday morning and the 12 remaining precinct votes are expected to come in soon, Jones said.

But it’s not the first time this has happened. Several precincts were missing flash drives in Baltimore city after the November 2020 general election and later recovered.

Editors Note: This story has been updated to reflect the votes were submitted by Thursday morning.

Bethany Raja is WYPR's City Hall Reporter
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