Maryland state elections officials have ordered that the results of Baltimore’s recent primary election be decertified after watchdogs and candidates complained that the process was flawed. State Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone said the number of ballots cast in the April 26 contest was hundreds more than the number of voters who checked in at polling places. The state also identified 80 provisional ballots that hadn’t been considered. “It’s important every ballot is counted,” Lamone said. It doesn’t appear likely that the investigation will change the results of Baltimore’s Democratic mayoral primary, where Senate Majority Leader Catherine Pugh finished more than 2,000 votes ahead of Sheila Dixon, a former mayor of the city. Statewide election results in the U.S. Senate and presidential primary cannot be certified until the problems in Baltimore are resolved.
Discrepancies between the number of ballots and voters aren’t unusual and were also spotted in five other counties this cycle, Lamone said. But she said the size of the discrepancy, and Baltimore’s inability to resolve it, prompted an unusual state intervention. It is possible that election judges prematurely scanned provisional ballots, which are available to people who show up at precincts but whose names do not appear on registered voting lists, she said.
Next week, officials will conduct a precinct-by-precinct review of documents to find out if that was the case, but they will not recount votes. Nikki Charlson, Lamone’s deputy, says that provisional ballots that should not have been counted cannot be removed from vote totals, meaning illegal votes could stand.
Under Maryland’s new paper-based voting system, provisional ballots can be sent through the same scanner as other ballots. Because people casting those ballots are not found on voter rolls, they would not be counted as having checked in at a polling place.