Chaos at Polls, and Mailbox, Throw Maryland Election Off Kilter

Baltimore voter Wayne Polston, left, briefly lowers his mask to be understood by an election judge at Edmondson Westside High School during Tuesday’s primary. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

BALTIMORE (CN) — Missing and incorrect ballots, long lines at the polls even after they closed, and results that won’t be certified for days or weeks marred the first statewide election conducted mostly by mail in Maryland’s largest city.

State elections officials posted early Baltimore City returns hours after the polls closed Tuesday, only to withdraw those results and reset the counts to zero early Wednesday morning. The Baltimore Sun’s early edition, based on those results, showed disgraced former Mayor Sheila Dixon leading the race over Brandon Scott, the City Council president; and Mary Miller, a former U.S. Treasury official in the Obama administration.

Incumbent Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young was running far behind, in fifth place, with 7% of the vote. 

Based on early results that were later withdrawn, The Baltimore Sun’s early Wednesday edition showed disgraced former Mayor Sheila Dixon leading the race.

Although they closely matched a tracking poll released two weeks ago, it was unclear Wednesday morning whether those early numbers had any validity. 

In a much-watched congressional race, Kweisi Mfume again bested all challengers in the race to succeed the late U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings. Mfume won a special general election on April 28 to serve the remaining months in the current term, and now will likely win the next term in the heavily Democratic district — one he served before in the 1990s. His Republican opponent, Kim Klacik, is a political newcomer and Fox News contributor.

But Baltimore City’s municipal election was anything but smooth, with long lines at all six official polling places, according to voters and poll workers. Kaliope Parthemos, a former aide to former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, tweeted that the line at the University of Maryland polling station was at least an hour and a half long, 10 minutes after polls were scheduled to close. “Many still undecided in line,” she tweeted. “Good conversations and questions. Plenty of time to chat while waiting.” 

It was the same across the city and into surrounding Baltimore County. Elections officials reported that 87,777 out of the almost 330,000 Baltimore ballots had been returned — a 27% turnout. But thousands more had mailed theirs or decided to vote in person. 

The Baltimore Board of Elections said 6,236 people voted in person Tuesday. The city’s population is nearly 600,000. 

The Baltimore Board of Elections said 6,236 people voted in person at the city’s six polling places. The city’s population is nearly 600,000. 

Many had to vote in person because they never got their ballots or, as the news website Maryland Matters reported, went to the polls after receiving the ballots for the wrong district. Elections officials were calling voters on Tuesday morning to tell them to vote in person before their mailed-in ballots, considered incorrect, were counted. 

By Tuesday afternoon the Maryland State Board of Elections was investigating another problem: Some mail-in ballots were categorized as voted and returned in electronic poll books, despite being classified as “undeliverable” by the U.S. Postal Service.  

 “In those cases, the voter will be allowed to vote by provisional ballot and the ballot will count,” the State Board of Elections said in a statement quoted by Maryland Matters. “The Board is working to ascertain how many undeliverable ballots were characterized in this manner.”

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