Although the Maryland primary election ended last week, the vote count continued Thursday as local jurisdictions sifted through provisional ballots to help declare victors in several close races.
About 19 canvassers helped count hundreds of provisional ballots at the Prince George’s County Board of Elections office in Largo. The main focus was on four races: County Council Districts 7 and 9 and state legislative Districts 21 and 23A.
“I’ve been here 19 years and I haven’t seen four races at one time,” said Alisha Alexander, administrator for the board of elections. “This is very unique. What is going on today is democracy at work.”
Because of the number of races, counts may not be completed until Friday or even Saturday, Alexander said.
Provisional ballots are used when a voter’s eligibility remains in question and must be approved by the board of elections.
The first count Thursday morning began with the top two candidates in District 9, with just 59 votes separating front-runner Sydney Harrison and Tamara Davis Brown.
Both candidates and their supporters attended the provisional canvass, which resumed Thursday afternoon after a lunch break.
According to unofficial results, Harrison, a clerk of the county’s Circuit Court, has received 7,029 votes and Brown, a telecommunications attorney, garnered 6,970 votes. Although those numbers include absentee ballots counted June 28, two days after the primary election, a second count may take place Friday.
Harrison expressed confidence in the voting process, adding that the competitive races show people care about the county.
“I’m excited because this process is doing everything it is supposed to,” he said before the count started. “I believe a lot of the candidates that entered into these races have a lot to offer the community. We’ve got a lot of great people here in Prince George’s County.”
Brown said this year’s election brought out millennial voters and those who sought change in leadership.
“You have a generation of voters and new generation of candidates that are willing to challenge the establishment,” she said. “It’s time for fresh ideas and fresh leadership. What we see with the very tight races of the old guard versus the new guard.”
The winner will replace Councilman Mel Franklin of Upper Marlboro, who was the top vote-getter amongst nine candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the council’s two new at-large seats.
However, any candidate can challenge the results in court.
One of the other three races in question pit Rodney Colvin Streeter against Krystal Oriadha in District 7.
According to the most recent count, Streeter, chief of staff for Councilwoman Andrea Harrison (D-District 5), leads by 33 votes over Oriadha, a co-chair of Progressive Maryland’s Prince George’s chapter.
In state legislative District 23A, Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith has a 54-vote lead over Shabnam Ahmed, who attended the provisional canvass with her husband.
And in District 21, County Councilwoman Mary Lehman (D-District 1) of Laurel holds a slightly more comfortable 213-vote lead over Matt Dernoga.
All absentee and provisional ballot counts are open to the public.