Annapolis mayoral election hangs in the balance

The campaign to become mayor of Annapolis took Mike Pantelides to Room 204 in City Hall Wednesday, where he and a team of supporters and lawyers camped out, waiting for answers.

How many people voted by absentee ballot? How many voters requested emergency absentee ballots? Who were the election judges who administered same-day emergency ballots?

The answers to the questions are crucial to Pantelides, a Republican, and incumbent Democratic Mayor Josh Cohen, who were separated by just 84 votes Tuesday night.

Pantelides had the 84-vote lead on Tuesday, but hundreds more votes will be counted at 9 a.m. Thursday, including absentee ballots, provisional ballots and the results from one voting machine that failed to print out unofficial results on Election Night.

"It's just to make sure it's done in an open, transparent process and the will of the people was served," Pantelides said. He added that he's confident he will win in the end.

Cohen, meanwhile, stayed quiet on Wednesday.

Cohen's spokeswoman, Rhonda Wardlaw, sent out a news release at midday, saying the mayor would talk to the press Thursday.

She included a statement from Cohen in which he said he was "cautiously optimistic" that he'd win re-election.

After waiting for a few hours, Pantelides' team, which included a lawyer for the campaign and a lawyer for the county Republican Party, met with Board of Supervisors of Elections Chairman Michael Parmele for more than an hour. They peppered him with questions and gave him a list of information requests.

The requests included a list of all voters who requested absentee ballots. Pantelides said it's common for candidates to get the list before Election Day to use in door-knocking and phone-calling efforts. He said his campaign was denied that information before Election Day, and they hand-delivered another request to Parmele on Wednesday.

They also sought the numbers of absentee, emergency absentee and provisional ballots cast.

Timothy D. Murnane, an attorney for the Pantelides campaign, said he was seeking the information to prepare for Thursday's canvass so that he can have "meaningful involvement."

The Pantelides campaign also sent out an email to supporters on Wednesday, asking them to call the campaign and report whether they had requested absentee ballots.

On Wednesday afternoon, Parmele could not say how many votes remain to be counted Thursday, when the Board of Supervisors of Elections changes titles and becomes the Board of Canvassers.

Elections officials previously told The Baltimore Sun that there were 329 requests for absentee ballots.

There's also an unknown number of provisional ballots and emergency absentee ballots to review and count. Parmele said there were not a lot of emergency absentees, estimating the number to be in "the tens."

It's also unclear how many votes are on the problematic machine from the Eastport-Annapolis Neck Library polling station. The Pantelides campaign estimates that there could be 108 votes on it.

Parmele said it will be unsealed during the canvass. He thinks the vote totals can be recovered either from the removable data card or from the backup on the machine.

The machine was being stored securely with all of the other voting machines, Parmele said.

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