Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in which a majority of votes were cast by mail-in or drop-off ballot, results from Howard County’s primary election came in slowly Tuesday night. And final outcomes aren’t expected to be decided for several days as counting continues.
Maryland’s primary election on Tuesday was the first to be held almost entirely by mail.
On April 28, voters in areas of Howard County, as well as parts of Baltimore County and the city, cast ballots mostly by mail in the 7th Congressional District special election to fill the seat of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings. However, Tuesday’s primary was the first statewide test for Maryland.
Howard County residents either voted by mail, dropped their ballots at one of the county’s three drop-off locations or voted in person Tuesday at the Bain 50+ Center in Columbia or at the Meadowbrook Park Athletic Complex in Ellicott City.
In addition to the presidential and congressional primary elections, Howard County has contested races for the Board of Education and District 5 Circuit Court judge.
For Tuesday’s primary, Howard residents for the first time cast ballots for the Board of Education based on where they live in the county. While still a nonpartisan race, the 17 candidates who filed to run for the five open seats on the school board are categorized by the five County Council districts. The top two candidates in each district will advance to the general election in November.
Four of the five districts have contested primaries, while the two candidates in District 1 — incumbent Christina Delmont-Small and Matthew Molyett — will automatically advance.
In District 2, Board of Education candidate Antonia Barkley Watts had a comfortable lead with more than 50% of the early mailed-in votes as of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to the state Board of Elections. James Cecil and Larry Pretlow II had 24.5% and 23.6% of the early votes, respectively.
Jolene Mosley also had a sizable lead in District 3 with more than 64% of the early votes. Tom Heffner followed with 26.8%, and Gian P. Alfeo, who withdrew from the race last month but whose name still appears on the ballot, had about 9%.
District 4, which saw two incumbents face off for the chance to win one seat in November, recorded close numbers. Board member Jen Mallo led with 33.7% of the early votes, while fellow board member Kirsten Coombs had 21.3%. In between them newcomer Sezin Palmer had about 26.5% of the votes, with other candidates Matt Levine (11.3%) Daniel J. Margolis (3.7%) and Mike Sheer (3.4%) lagging behind.
Yun Lu was leading District 5 with 36.7% of the early votes, with the other three candidates following closely behind: Gene Ryan (25.4%); former school board member Cindy Vaillancourt (24.8%); and Saif Rehman (13.4%).
Early results were also in for the District 5 Circuit Court judge race.
Republicans voted heavily for incumbent John J. Kuchno, with about 56% of the early votes. Challengers Z. Stephen Horvat and Stephen J. Musselman followed closely with 17.7% and 15.7%, respectively, and Quincy L. Coleman lagged at 10.6%.
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Democrats also favored Kuchno but at a smaller margin, as he recorded 36.7% of the early votes and the nearest challenger, Coleman, had 31.3%. Musselman (17.1%) and Horvat (14.9%) followed.
Prior to in-person voting Tuesday, the state Board of Elections reported receiving more than 58,000 mail-in ballots from Howard County residents, meaning the nearly 29,000 ballots counted by 9:50 p.m. Tuesday accounted for less than 50% of the ballots received prior to Tuesday.
Guy Mickley, director of the Howard County Board of Elections, said because Howard County had the benefit of participating in the April special election, this wasn’t the first attempt at counting a large number of vote-by-mail ballots.
Still, people will need to be patient, Mickley warned.
“I think people would need to have a tempered expectation that they’re not going to know the results of every winner on election night,” he said. “There’s many days after of counting ballots that will have to transpire.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Emily Opilo contributed to this article.