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Baltimore certifies primary votes, closing spring election season

Francis Vincent, facing camera, records votes read to him by his partner as canvassers recreate ballots that can be read by the scanner. Vote canvassing for the primary continues at the Baltimore City Board of Elections warehouse. June 8, 2020
Francis Vincent, facing camera, records votes read to him by his partner as canvassers recreate ballots that can be read by the scanner. Vote canvassing for the primary continues at the Baltimore City Board of Elections warehouse. June 8, 2020 (Amy Davis)

The Baltimore City Board of Elections certified the vote totals from this month’s primary Monday, bringing an end to a closely watched election season.

A total of 157,589 ballots were cast by city voters in the primary, director Armstead Jones reported to board members Monday before they voted unanimously to certify. That means 47% of voters participated in the election which included contests for the Democratic mayoral nomination, City Council president and comptroller.

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City Council President Brandon Scott won the Democratic nomination for mayor, which typically decides the race in the majority Democratic Baltimore. Scott beat out former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who was running to reclaim her seat, by just over 3,100 votes. Dixon conceded Saturday after vote counting was complete, ending speculation that she may try to seek a recount in the race.

State Del. Nick Mosby won the Democratic primary for Council president, beating Councilwoman Shannon Sneed 40% to 29%. Democratic Councilman Bill Henry soundly defeated longtime Democratic Comptroller Joan Pratt 55% to 45% in the first competitive race for that office in years.

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The results certified Monday also confirmed the winners in several closely contested Democratic races for City Council seats including newcomers Mark Conway in District 4, James Torrence in District 7 and Phylicia Porter in District 10. Councilman Robert Stokes Sr., who was regarded as the board’s most vulnerable freshman, held onto his seat representing District 12.

The June 2 primary was Maryland’s first attempt at a statewide election held primarily by mail. Eligible registered voters across the state were mailed ballots and encouraged to return them via the mail or to ballot drop boxes to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

Limited in-person voting locations were still available, an option that proved more popular than election officials expected. Many voters waited in lines of more than an hour on primary day.

State and local officials are still gathering data to ascertain the success of the vote-by-mail process in hopes of making improvements before November’s general election. About 21,000 primary ballots sent to Baltimore voters were returned to the local election board by the U.S. Postal Service with addresses marked “undeliverable.” Another 229 ballots that were rejected by the city board after they were returned without signatures.

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