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First Click - Maryland: Elections Board explains vote delays

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Thursday, September 16, 2010:

The Agenda
Aaron.jpgAcross Maryland on Tuesday night, voters tuned into news stations, clicked on Web sites for The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, and others. Some even went trolling through the state Board of Elections' Web site looking for poll results.

elexsnafu.JPGThey weren't there - not at 8 p.m., when the polls closed, not really at 10 p.m., nor midnight or even 2 a.m., when vote tallies rose, but on the state site it still wasn't clear how many precincts were reporting and how many remained. Yesterday morning, on the state site voters still couldn't find results from Prince George's County and in Baltimore, results for the State's Attorney's race took more than 20 hours.

Last fall when neighboring Virginia went to the polls, most results could be found within hours. Both state and local officials mostly gave acceptance speeches before the 11 o'clock news and voters went to bed knowing the results of nearly every race.

Why was it so different in Maryland? So much slower? And what does it mean for November when results for the governor's race are expected to be much closer?

Linda H. Lamone, state administrator for the Maryland Board of Elections said the state's first experience with early voting contributed to delays on Tuesday night. At 8 p.m. when the polls closed, the five state workers verifying returns began receiving early voting data from every county. Before they were done with those, election-day results began stacking up.

Lamone said that essentially the batches of early votes created two sets of data for each county, or twice as much work for Board of Elections' workers in the first hours after the polls closed.

What's more, "we had problems with our server," Lamone said. "It became unhappy and slowed things down."

But Lamone noted that relatively, Maryland looked good on Tuesday night, "compared to D.C, we get them up a lot faster," she said.

Lamone said there were lessons learned, as with any race, and that in November the state would request and process early voting results from counties before the polls close at 8 p.m. She said the Board is also fixing its server to speed access to the state site.

As for Prince George's, they didn't turn over their results until Wednesday morning, and that's out of the state's control, Lamone said.

-- Aaron C. Davis

News You Should Know

Coming in January: A polarized state Senate
Maryland's often hushed, maroon Senate chamber soon will be a far more polarized and potentially rancorous place with staunch liberal and conservative lawmakers replacing moderate ones, especially on fiscal policies. After a series of incumbent losses, at least one in six faces in the Senate will be new when the General Assembly reconvenes in January for a session in which bills to force large corporations to pay more in state taxes and ones to raise levies on liquor, wine and beer will resurface as possible solutions to help close an estimated $1.5 billion budget gap. "This election is definitely going to send a message throughout the Maryland political landscape that voters are really looking for progressive solutions as we go through these tough times," said Rion Dennis, acting director of Progressive Maryland, a nonprofit that advocates for working-class families and that backed the more liberal -- and often successful -- Democratic candidates on Tuesday in contested state legislative races. "There are a new breed of lawmakers coming who will change the tenor of that chamber."

Led by an unusual wave of mostly young, liberal Democrats in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, at least five incumbent senators were ousted Tuesday by sitting members of the House of Delegates. Two more remained in races that were too close to call in Montgomery County. A similar theme also played out on the Republican side of the aisle. Moderate Washington County Sen. Donald F. Munson was defeated by Del. Christopher B. Shank, the minority whip.
-- Aaron C. Davis

Tea Party may not have helped Murphy against Ehrlich
"On paper, Brian Murphy's bid for governor of Maryland shared much of the same storyline as Christine O'Donnell's Senate candidacy in neighboring Delaware: Both began their primary campaigns as virtual unknowns against far more established Republicans. And both got a major boost from an endorsement by Sarah Palin," writes The Post's John Wagner. "Yet on Wednesday morning, a victorious O'Donnell was making the rounds on national television shows, while Murphy stood silently at a Maryland Republican Party unity rally in Annapolis where he was given no speaking role. Why didn't lightning strike in Maryland?

Murphy, a 33-year-old business investor from Montgomery County, wound up with almost a quarter of the GOP primary vote, certainly more than many expected from the political novice. But he didn't turn out to be a serious threat to former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), despite Palin's contention that Murphy was the "the only common-sense, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment" candidate in the race."

What were Prince George's voters looking for?
"Prince George's County Democrats appeared to be searching for a new style of leadership Tuesday when they nominated former state delegate Rushern L. Baker III to be the next county executive and turned aside a bid from popular county Sheriff Michael A. Jackson," writes The Post's Miranda Spivack. "Jackson, closely aligned with the incumbent county executive, Jack B. Johnson (D), had won national acclaim for some of his department's work but also had been plagued by allegations of employee misconduct. He conceded the race to Baker about 7 a.m. Wednesday. A slow vote count by the county's Board of Elections stretched well into the early morning, preventing unofficial results from being tallied until 5 a.m.


"Ehrlich knows he can't run on his failed record, so we can be certain the smears and distortions will be coming, funded by millions from his national Republican allies ... Contribute $10, $20, $50 or more right now to help us fight off Republican attacks."
-- Coming out of the block from Tuesday's primary win, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) Campaign Manager Tom Russell Wednesday issued a fundraising solicitation claiming both the upper hand in his re-election bid and a need to keep stockpiling money to fend off Ehrlich.

"...............(smile) ............."
-- Among those present at a Republican unity press conference Wednesday who fell short was Brian Murphy, who won about a quarter of the primary vote against former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. Murphy, however, wasn't given a speaking role at the gathering. Ehrlich and Murphy shook hands after the event broke up, and Ehrlich told reporters he considered Murphy "a good guy."


Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics. Each Monday and Thursday, First Click brings you The Agenda, a concise, forward-looking analysis of a top development in politics or policy. "News You Should Know" breaks down top stories from across the state. And other features keep you up to speed with power brokers in Annapolis and beyond. Want First Click on the go? Sign up for our free e-mail edition, and get the news delivered to your inbox or mobile device.

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By Aaron C. Davis  |  September 16, 2010; 7:57 AM ET
Categories:  First Click  
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