Montgomery County election officials begin counting mail-in ballots; Why results could take days to weeks

It’s been two days since the Democratic primary for Montgomery County Executive and we still don’t know the winner as the slow work of counting the state's mail-in ballots got underway on Thursday.


Challenger David Blair leads by a razor-thin margin over incumbent Marc Elrich, but officials warn it could likely take a week or more before we know the winner.

Montgomery County's Board of Elections is checking the ballots at Montgomery College. The group wrapped up their work for the first day of canvassing mail-in ballots at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

FOX 5's Tom Fitzgerald reports that teams of Democrats and Republican poured over the mail-in ballots, making sure they are properly filled out and eligible to be counted.

"Making sure all of the corresponding parts are filled out, there’s no signature on the ballot, no coffee stains because when we sent them to be tabulated we want a smooth process seamless process," Dr. Gilberto Zeleya from the Board of Elections tells FOX 5.

In total, county officials say they have 34,000 mail-in ballots to get through. Mongtomery County's Board of Elections is expected to release an update on the counting Thursday night.

Now you may be wondering why the mail-in ballots are being first counted days after the election. The answer is because, by law, Maryland does not allow mail-in ballots to be counted until two days after the election.

Mongtomery County State Senator Cheryl Kagan previously helped pass a bill that would have allowed the ballots to be counted earlier, but the bill was later vetoed by Governor Larry Hogan.

"Maryland is the only state in the nation that in law prohibits the counting of mail-in ballots until two days after polls close," said Kagan. "That has created a nightmare for our local boards and a lot of confusion for candidates and other activists. It really doesn't have to be like this. We must get this fixed for the November elections because there is so many people who’ve lost confidence in our elections systems."

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The Board of Elections have a two-week calendar to complete the mail-in ballot counting, but they can also add more days to make sure the process is not rushed.