City Council President Brandon Scott widened his lead over former Mayor Sheila Dixon as thousands more votes were tallied Monday in Baltimore’s Democratic mayoral primary.
Scott claimed 29.1% of votes counted so far in the election, while Dixon now holds 28.1%. Fewer than 1,400 votes separated the two front-runners.
Monday night’s returns were based on about 142,000 votes, though election workers will continue to tally ballots that have trickled in during Maryland’s first attempt at a mostly mail-in statewide election. City elections officials said Monday that they must still count roughly 6,000 ballots.
While Dixon was ahead when the first batch of returns were posted on the night of the June 2 primary, Scott inched up with each additional release, overtaking her Sunday night.
“It’s not over till it’s over,” Scott said Monday. “I’m very encouraged by the numbers, but I want to make sure that every vote is counted.”
Dixon said Monday that she is concerned with the execution of the mail-in election.
“I think anybody would want this to come to an end,” she said of the lengthy voting-counting process. “There are some questions and concerns that I have.”
Asked if she would call for a recount if Scott beats her by a thin margin, Dixon said she’s “keeping all options open.” She said she spoke with her lawyers Monday about a number of issues, but declined to elaborate on what they were.
Scott, too, said his “legal team is to be ready for whatever is necessary.”
The primary so far has been riddled with problems:
- Maryland mailed out ballots that listed the wrong date for the primary; the primary was supposed to be held April 28, but was postponed to June 2 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Ballots for Baltimore City voters were delayed, and some people said they never received one in the mail by primary day.
- On primary night, state election officials posted preliminary returns in city races before suddenly deleting them about 2 a.m. Wednesday with no explanation for another nine hours.
- Then, city elections officials didn’t count votes Wednesday. On Thursday, city elections officials announced that the day’s canvass would be devoted to the Democratic primary in the 1st Council District, where a printing error had led to incorrect returns. That meant that for two days after the primary, workers were not canvassing in the citywide races.
“We got to really get it together here, Maryland,” Dixon said. “It’s really frustrating.”
There is a clear trend towards Scott, but “this is a difficult one to project until those last votes are counted,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College.
The challenge, she said, is that no one knows where in the city the remaining ballots are from.
“So we can’t assume that these votes that are left look like the votes that were counted,” she said. “If we knew that, we would have a better idea given what we know about their bases of support.”
Workers continued stacking ballots Monday and placing them into scanners at the city’s voting systems and supply warehouse.
Some of the work was particularly tedious: Officials found the ballot’s design in the District 1 Council race left it out of alignment with scanners, resulting in confusion as results were being reported. The problem is being rectified by manually duplicating all vote-by-mail ballots cast.
Three teams of two people each worked on ballot after ballot.
One worker sat at a table and read candidate names for each office — including mayor — from a filled-in ballot, while the other listened and wrote in the selections on a fresh ballot to be scanned. On Tuesday, the workers are expected to continue with the District 1 ballot reconstructions.
Problems also plagued the 2016 primary, in which Dixon was narrowly defeated. State officials decertified the results before then-state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh was ultimately declared the winner by fewer than 2,500 votes.
Dixon continued to fight to get her old job back. She was mayor from 2007 to 2010 before she resigned amid a corruption scandal.
“We’ll see what happens,” Dixon said late Monday night. “I might pull it off tomorrow.”
In other returns Monday night, state Del. Nick Mosby won the Democratic primary for Baltimore City Council president over Councilwoman Shannon Sneed and former City Councilman Carl Stokes. Mosby is poised to serve the next term as Council president, and both Sneed and Stokes have congratulated him on his victory.
In the Democratic primary for Baltimore comptroller, City Councilman Bill Henry upset longtime incumbent Joan Pratt. He declared victory Monday night, shortly after the additional returns were released.
Turnout in Baltimore for last week’s primary has already surpassed that of the 2016 Democratic primary.
Scott said he was heartened by the huge influx in voters, despite the challenges.
“What we should be focusing in on is making sure that none of these issues exist in the November election,” he said.
In the crowded mayoral field, Monday’s results created even more distance between front-runners Dixon and Scott and the rest of the top candidates. Former U.S. Treasury Department official Mary Miller, currently in third place, was at 15.5%, while former state Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah had 11%. Incumbent Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who conceded the race Friday, trailed with only 6%.
Elections officials will focus Wednesday on counting provisional ballots. Roughly 2,000 were cast, but about 700 have already been rejected. Provisional ballots are set aside when problems are detected, such as a voter trying to cast a ballot in a primary who is not a registered Democrat or Republican.
Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Alison Knezevich contributed to this article.