FREDERICK, Md. — The Frederick County Board of Elections plans to decertify the results of the 2022 primary election and meet this week to handle the aftermath. The board will rescan all mail-in and provisional ballots counted in post-election canvasses.
Officials say a discrepancy between the total number of votes in the certified results and the number of accepted mail-in and provisional ballots sparked a closer look at the ballots cast in the primary election. As a result of the discovery, the board will be doing a comprehensive review of ballot accounting documents, they said.
Officials confirmed that the ongoing review currently shows that the discrepancy could be blamed on human errors in ballot accounting that happened during the mail-in and provisional canvassing process.
The Maryland State Board of Elections was first briefed about the issue on Aug. 6 and they immediately started working towards starting the rescan alongside the Frederick County Board of Elections.
After the election is recertified, both boards plan to work together to review ballot accounting procedures and put in place best practices for accounting moving forward.
Local critics of election integrity say the situation is an example of what can go wrong with a voting system that increasingly is relying on mail-in balloting.
"Everyone said that mail-in ballots were going to be a problem; now we have a problem," said Billy Shreve, a member of the county's Republican Central Committee, a former County Commissioner and former Western Maryland Director of the Trump campaign. “Mail-in ballots create lots of doubt."
Deputy County Election Administrator Anthony Gutierrez explained that the error was found as workers prepared for a recount in the Democratic primary for the District 3 County Council race, where challenger Jazmin Di Cola was ahead of incumbent M.C. Keegan-Ayer by only three votes when the original votes were certified.
“We believed that there was a possibility that we had inadvertently double scans of ballots or run some ballots twice," Gutierrez said. "Our initial review was that it was about 100 ballots but we couldn't pinpoint which precinct and which contest."
Gutierrez said the problem is with mail-in and provisional ballots which must be opened, inspected and validated by elections workers before they’re taken to machines to be counted.
Critics say the process creates opportunities for mistakes.
Keegan-Ayer called the situation “a roller coaster that won’t stop."
A lawyer for Di Cola, Jessica Robinson, called the situation disappointing, but said the board’s willingness to decertify results and count again is evidence they are trying to get it right.
“The public should have confidence that the election is not being rigged, but a matter of election workers trying to do the right thing," Robinson said.
Bill Voelp, the chairman of the Maryland State Board of Elections, said the incident is likely to increase the urgency to make changes before the November general election, which would allow local elections boards to begin processing mail-in ballots when they are received rather than waiting until elections day, which is what the law requires now.
Such a change would have to be ordered by Maryland's courts at the request of the State Board.
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