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Beulah emerges as Republican nominee in Harford council race

The final canvass of votes cast in Harford County during the June 24 primary settled the question of the winner in the Harford County Council race for District F, with Curtis Beulah of Abingdon eking out a 26-vote win over Monica Ann Worrell of Havre de Grace for the Republican nomination.

The second and final canvass of absentee ballots was conducted Monday at the Harford County Board of Elections headquarters in Forest Hill.

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None of the other local races from the primary was close enough to be affected by Monday's canvass, but there was some additional drama injected over the status of an absentee vote cast by a Havre de Grace resident who died six days prior to the election.

Beulah finished with 1,088 votes to 1,062 for Worrell, according to a final tally that must still be certified by the Board of Elections. The race was tight going into Monday's canvass, with Beulah holding a 39-vote lead over Worrell.

The board tallied 264 absentee ballots Monday, with Worrell picking up 17 votes, to four for Beulah.

Beulah's Democratic opponent in the November general election will be former Havre de Grace city councilman Joseph Smith, who was unopposed in his party's primary.

Neither Beulah nor Worrell could be reached for comment Monday. District F covers eastern Abingdon, Havre de Grace and Riverside.

Results of the remaining primary races for county council, county council president, state's attorney, sheriff, the Harford County Board of Education and local seats in the Maryland General Assembly were unchanged.

Rejected ballot saved

Members of the board rejected a handful of absentee ballots Monday.

State law allows local boards to reject absentee ballots if a ballot is turned in late, the voter has not signed the oath, the board receives multiple ballots from the same person, the ballot is marked "for the purpose of identifying the ballot" or the board determines the voter died before Election Day and before absentee ballots are canvassed, according to the legislation.

Portions of ballots can also be rejected if the voter's intent for a particular office or referendum question "is not clearly demonstrated," or the voter chooses a person who is no longer a candidate, according to the legislation.

Dale Livingston, deputy elections director, said 11 ballots were rejected; nine were late and two were not signed.

County Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti attended Monday's canvas to defend the absentee ballot cast by her late mother during the early voting period that preceded Primary Election Day June 24.

Nellie Armstrong Lisanti, 90, of Havre de Grace, died June 18.

Mary Ann Lisanti told board members that her mother had never missed an election and took issue with the language "before Election Day" in Maryland Election Law Section 11-302(d)(3)(i), considering her mother cast the ballot during the early voting period.

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"I have scoured every piece of election literature," Lisanti told the board. A Democrat, Lisanti received one of her party's nominations for two House of Delegates seats in subdistrict 34A.

The board's lawyer, Michael Comeau, referred to Election Law Section 8-201, which defines Election Day for the primary as "the last Tuesday in June" during a gubernatorial election year.

Comeau told the board that, "as regretfully as I have to say these words," Mrs. Lisanti's ballot should be rejected.

"The law seems clear to me that the ballot is to be rejected," he said.

Comeau noted "following the law and doing the right thing" are not always the same thing.

Board members voted 4-1 to reject Mrs. Lisanti's ballot. President Molly Neal cast the dissenting vote.

State law, however, requires a vote to reject a ballot be unanimous, so Mrs. Lisanti's ballot was processed.

Mary Ann Lisanti said later while talking to Elections Director Kevin Keene that she would work to "clarify" the law if elected.

Keene told The Aegis that a vote cast in a voting booth in a polling place during early voting counts, even if the voter dies before Election Day, but an absentee ballot can be rejected under the same circumstances.

Lisanti said later that she treated the matter of her mother's vote as a "constituent issue," and she wanted to ensure the election laws were applied "equitably to every citizen."

"This is not personal," she said. "This is not about my mother; this is about voting rights."

Lisanti noted that, under the state's legislation creating the early voting period, "each and every one of those days were election days."

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