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Too close to call

Ballot canvassing begins to decide Baltimore races
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Posted at 3:49 PM, May 16, 2024

BALTIMORE — Holed up in a nondescript warehouse in Southwest Baltimore, the fate of candidates in the tightest races lies with uncounted ballots and the City Board of Elections.

“Today, the number of ballots we anticipate canvassing is approximately 24,000 ballots,” canvassers are told during their instructions.

In the Democratic Council District 8 race, Dr. Bilal Ali needs to make up some ground on Paris Gray.

“This is proof of ‘every vote matters," especially when you’re down just 53,” said Ali, “I know he didn’t sleep well last night, but…”

“…but you didn’t either?”

“Exactly.”

The job, itself, seems simple enough—-check the postmark to make sure each ballot was received by the deadline and that the voter signed it, but this is just the beginning of the process.

The canvassing of mail-in ballots will continue through this week.

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Then, the board will look at provisional ballots on Wednesday, the 22nd.

Then, there will be a second look at additional mail-in ballots on Friday, the 24th.

City Elections Director Armstead Jones says candidates must be patient and allow the board to finish its work, no matter how long it takes.

“As long as we are counting during each stage of the canvas, those numbers will change,” said Jones, “So when they’re close like that, we almost need to look to the end to make sure that it is what it is.”

For now, candidates in the tightest races must simply wait and see what the final result is, but there’s nothing simple about that.

Just ask Jermaine Jones who started the day just 140 votes ahead of the incumbent, Robert Stokes, Senior, in the District 12 council race.

“It’s a weird place to be in, because when you’re running a campaign, you say, ‘Oh, I’m gonna run up until I can’t run anymore. Until Election Day is over, I’m gonna give it everything I’ve got,’” said Jones, “Well, now we’re at a place where the race is still going on, but there’s almost nothing else for you to do.”