The votes are still being counted from Tuesday’s primary election, but here’s what we know from the early results in Howard County:
Howard residents overwhelmingly chose to vote by mail
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Maryland’s primary on Tuesday was the first in state history to be held almost entirely by mail. By the end of Tuesday, which saw some polling locations in the state held up by long lines, more than 42,000 people had voted in person across the state.
In Howard County, however, only about 1,500 voters registered with a party voted in person. A few more independent voters, who weren’t able to be tracked on the state’s elections website, could have also voted in person Tuesday but only in their Board of Education district race.
The low number of in-person voters at Howard County’s two polling locations is compared to no fewer than 65,000 mail ballots received by Wednesday, according to the state Board of Elections.
There’s still a lot of counting to do
As of 9 p.m. Wednesday, at least 36,000 of the 59,000 mail ballots delivered to voters registered with a party had been counted. That means at least another 20,000 ballots are to be counted, as well as ballots received by mail after Wednesday — with a postmark of June 2 or earlier — and the nearly 3,000 absentee ballots the elections office has received. About 6,000 more mail ballots have also been received from independent voters, but it’s not clear how many of those ballots have been counted.
Guy Mickley, director of the Howard County Board of Elections, said on Monday that because Howard County had the benefit of participating in the April special election to fill the seat of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, this wasn’t the first attempt at counting a large number of vote-by-mail ballots.
“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.”
Board of Education races up in the air
While it’s likely that less than half of the votes have been counted, some county Board of Education candidates have commanding leads.
Antonia Barkley Watts has a commanding lead in District 2 with almost 52% of the vote, while Jolene Mosley has received nearly 65% of the vote in District 3.
In District 2, James Cecil and Larry Pretlow II are far behind Watts but remain close to each other, at 24.5% and 23.7%, respectively. Also in District 3, Tom Heffner is in a clear second over Gian P. Alfeo, who withdrew from the race last month for sharing Islamaphobic posts on Facebook but is still on the ballot, by more than 17%.
The most competitive races are in districts 4 and 5, where no candidate has more than 37% of the vote and six candidates are over 10%. In District 4, incumbent school board member Jen Mallo is leading the way at 33.3%, while Sezin Palmer is in second at 26.2%. If the numbers hold, Palmer would unseat incumbent Kirsten Coombs, who was seeking a second term after winning in 2016 and was sitting at 21.5%.
“I would describe it as cautiously optimistic,” Palmer said Wednesday. “As a newcomer to this race and to politics in general and being in a district against two well-known incumbents, it was a challenge for sure. I was really excited to see the results of the early count, but I’m not going to count my chickens before they hatch.”
Mallo couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, while Coombs declined to comment due to the results not yet being final.
Yun Lu is ahead at 36.6% in District 5, but the other three candidates — Gene Ryan, Cindy Vaillancourt and Saif Rehman — all have more than 13% of the vote.
The two candidates with the most votes from each district will face off in November’s general election. This includes incumbent Christina Delmont-Small and Matthew Molyett, who, as the only two candidates in District 1, automatically advanced to the general.
Incumbent judge in the lead
In the race for the District 5 Circuit Court judge, incumbent John J. Kuchno is leading among both Republican and Democrat voters.
Among Republicans, Kuchno, who was appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan and started his term in January 2019, leads the other three candidates — Quincy L. Coleman, Z. Stephen Horvat and Stephen J. Musselman — with 56% of the vote. Among Democrats, Kuchno has a more narrow lead with 36.7% of the vote, ahead of Coleman’s 31.3%.
The top vote-getter on each side moves on to the general election. If the percentages hold, Kuchno will be the only candidate on the ballot in November.
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Baltimore Sun reporter Emily Opilo contributed to this article.