- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A final count of provisional ballots cast in Montgomery County during last week’s primary election could stretch into next week, further delaying results that will decide some close races, elections officials said yesterday.

A team of workers analyzing the paper ballots Monday tallied 1,400 of the 10,000 to 12,000 provisional ballots cast Sept. 12, said Margie Roher, a spokeswoman for the county elections board.

At that pace, the count likely won’t be completed until Friday at the earliest. Counting could spill into the weekend or next week, Miss Roher said.

“As we go into the process, it may start to pick up,” she said. “There is no way to tell right now.”

Provisional ballots normally are used when a voter’s name does not appear on the list of eligible voters at a precinct.

Those numbers usually are small. In the 2004 primary, 1,275 were cast in Montgomery.

This year, cards needed to start electronic voting machines weren’t delivered to polling places on time, meaning early voters had to use provisional ballots to cast their choices.

In the confusion that followed, many precincts ran out of provisional ballots. In some cases, voters made their choices on photocopied ballots or scraps of paper.

State elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone has demanded that the county outline what went wrong and detail a plan for avoiding chaos during the Nov. 7 general election.

During a hearing Monday before the Montgomery County Council, county elections director Margaret Jurgensen said that some of the confusion was caused by a barrage of pre-election changes ordered by the state.

Counting provisional ballots is time-consuming, Miss Roher said.

A team first must determine whether the voter is registered or didn’t vote later on a touch-screen machine.

A group of 36 canvassers then records the votes on the accepted ballots. On Monday, the counting lasted from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but Miss Roher said those hours could be lengthened.

“There is an excessive amount of research that has to be done on each ballot,” she said.

The election must be certified by Monday, though Miss Roher said the language of the state law could be read to give the counting more time.

As of early yesterday afternoon, 14 of the state’s 23 counties and Baltimore had completed the provisional vote count.

Baltimore and Prince George’s County, which both had problems on primary day, also had yet to report provisional ballot results.

Some elections could be changed by the provisional results.

Donna Edwards trails U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn by just a few thousand votes in the Democratic primary in the 4th Congressional District, which comprises portions of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

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