Three Harford County election races that went down to the wire appear to have been decided with Friday’s final canvass of absentee and provisional ballots.
In each instance, candidates who were trailing by less than 300 votes gained on the leaders, but not enough to overtake them.
Election workers went over 579 ballots – 569 absentee and 10 provisional – at the Harford County Board of Elections office in Forest Hill.
Of the total ballots presented, 529 were accepted and scanned Friday, with the board of canvassers – members of the Elections Board advised by their legal counsel – rejecting 49, primarily absentee ballots not received by the deadline. One provisional ballot that had been scanned during early voting also was accepted.
The biggest change from Wednesday’s second of three canvasses of absentee and provisional ballots came in the District 34 State Senate race where Democratic challenger Mary-Dulany James picked up 144 votes to 74 for incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Cassilly.
Neither candidate attended the three post-election canvasses, including Friday’s. Several fellow candidates acknowledged that James stopped campaigning following the sudden death of her daughter, Evelyn Ann James Feeney, on Sept. 30.
The 70-vote gain Friday brought James to within 189 votes of Cassilly, who received 24,445 votes, or 50.10 percent, to James’ 24,256 votes or 49.72 percent. The district covers southern Harford County from Joppatowne to Havre de Grace and also parallels Route 24 through Abingdon and the greater Bel Air area.
The same two candidates ran against each other in 2014 when Cassilly, a onetime Bel Air Town Commissioner and Harford County Council member, received 57 percent of the vote over James who had served multiple terms in the House of Delegates.
In the legislative Subdistrict 34A race for two House of Delegates seats, two-term incumbent Republican Glen Glass fell further behind the second-place finisher, Democrat Steve Johnson.
Glass picked up 22 votes Friday to 58 for Johnson, leaving Johnson ahead by 165 votes, 11,857 to 11,692 for Glass, who has represented the Route 40 area district for eight years.
Neither candidate attended Friday’s canvass; however, fellow Republican Del. Susan McComas, who was present, said Glass’ defeat would be “a loss” for Harford’s eight-member House delegation.
McComas, who was re-elected to a county record-tying fifth term in the Maryland General Assembly representing Subdistrict 35B in Abingdon and greater Bel Air, said one of Glass’ strength’s has been his rapport with and representation of the county’s African-American community, which is a large segment of Glass’ district.
Incumbent Democratic Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, who also watched Friday’s canvass, picked up another 69 votes to finish in first place with 13,558 votes.
The fourth candidate, Republican J.D. Russell, picked up 34 votes, but still remained well back in the field with 9,606 votes.
Council race narrows
In the one Harford County Council race that had remained close, District F covering Havre de Grace, Riverside and Abingdon, Democrat Winifred “Wini” Roche picked up an additional 63 votes Friday to 31 for incumbent Republican Councilman Curtis Beulah.
Friday’s gain still left Roche 235 votes behind, with Beulah receiving 8,891 votes, or 50.59 percent, and Roche receiving 8,656, or 49.25 percent.
“I anticipated a close race,” said Roche, who intently observed Friday’s two-hour canvass, much as she also had done during the earlier canvasses.
Roche, a first-time candidate, told a well-wisher she would go back to her life, “which has been on hold the last nine months,” but she also hinted the race might not be over just yet.
Asked if she had talked with Beulah, Roche replied: “No, because I haven’t conceded to him yet.”
A few Democrat gains
Lisanti, who has been Harford County’s only Democratic elected officeholder the past four years, said she is happy her party will pick up another House of Delegates seat with Johnson’s apparent victory, as well as a seat on the County Council with Andre Johnson’s win in the District A race.
But she also said she was disappointed that the party had several strong candidates who didn’t win, such as Roche and Bridgette Johnson, who lost to Robert Wagner for the County Council’s District E seat representing Aberdeen, Churchville and the east Bel Air suburbs.
Johnson, who like Roche was a first-time candidate, picked up 48 votes in Friday’s canvass to 18 for Wagner, a former councilman making a comeback after eight years out of office. In the final tally, however, Wagner finished comfortably ahead with 8,800 votes, or 54.08 percent, to Johnson’s 7,441 votes, or 45.73 percent.
Republicans also held on to the other four district council seats, the council presidency, county executive, sheriff, clerk of the court, register of wills, state’s attorney, the county’s other two state senate seats and the remaining five House of Delegate seats.
Friday was also the date for local boards of elections to certify their election results to the Maryland Board of Elections and the governor.
That also started the clock ticking on the Monday, Nov. 19 deadline for candidates to petition for a recount, if a local office is involved. The petition is to be filed with the local board.
Statewide results of the general election won’t be certified by the Maryland Board of Elections until Wednesday, Dec. 12, according to the statewide election calendar.
Following that certification date, candidates for state offices, such as General Assembly seats, have until Friday, Dec. 14 to petition the State Board of Elections for a recount.
Under state elections laws, recounts can take one of four forms:
Option 1: A manual tabulation of printed reports from early voting, Election Day and the absentee and provisional ballot canvasses. Printed reports from precinct tabulators and high speed scanners (if available) are examined and manually tabulated;
Option 2: A re-scan of voted paper ballots involved in the recount using precinct tabulators or high-speed scanner (if available) to reproduce early voting, precinct or absentee or provisional ballot canvass totals;
Option 3: A manual recount of voted paper ballots involved in the recount;
Option 4: A manual recount of ballot images of voted ballots involved in the recount.
State law requires that a candidate petitioning for a recount is liable for the cost, which will be determined by the State Board of Elections. A bond to cover the recount cost must also be filed with the recount petition, with the bond to be determined by a local circuit court judge.
State law also provides that a candidate petitioning for recount won’t be required to pay, if the outcome of the election is changed; the petitioner has gained votes equal to 2 percent or more of the total votes cast for the contest; or the margin of difference between the two candidates with the most votes is 0.1 percent or less of the votes cast for those two candidates.
Recounts have been rare in Harford County elections, the last one occurring in a House of Delegates race in the early 1980s. The election day result did not change following that recount.