Montgomery County officials yesterday called for firings and an investigation of the elections board for its failure to provide access cards for electronic voting machines at the start of Tuesday’s primary elections. Thousands of voters were turned away or forced to use provisional paper ballots at the county’s 238 precincts.
Calling the election “a debacle,” Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan sent a letter to Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. calling for the firing of Margaret A. Jurgensen, director of the county Board of Elections since 2001, and the removal of Nancy H. Dacek, president of the board.
Mrs. Dacek, a Republican, is a former County Council member and an appointee of Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican seeking re-election.
In a letter to the elections board, Mr. Duncan, a Democrat, also called on Mrs. Dacek to fire Miss Jurgensen, citing “gross incompetence and something we cannot dismiss as a ‘clerical error’ or an ‘Election Day glitch.’”
Meanwhile, the Montgomery County Council is expected to hold a hearing on the election error next week.
Miss Jurgensen said yesterday that county elections officials had begun counting about 9,000 absentee ballots and an unknown number of provisional ballots.
Several races were unresolved yesterday, including the 4th Congressional District contest, in which fewer than 1,000 votes separated U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn from Democratic primary challenger Donna Edwards.
At least two House of Delegates contests were unresolved:
In District 16, which includes Bethesda and Chevy Chase, lawyer Regina Oldak said she was waiting for provisional ballots to be counted before conceding defeat. She trailed incumbent Marilyn Goldwater by several hundred votes in the Democratic primary.
“Somebody certainly screwed up,” Miss Oldak said. “Somebody needs to be held accountable. I don’t think they should try to use some poor clerk as a scapegoat, either. A series of things happened here. A supervisor needs to be looked at.”
In District 17, which covers Rockville and Gaithersburg, Democrat Ryan Spiegel needed 375 votes to earn a spot on the November ballot.
“It would be unlikely statistically, but it’s possible that provisional and absentee ballots could bump me up,” said Mr. Spiegel, a lawyer. “We’re going to wait and see what happens. … I’m outraged by what happened.”
Miss Jurgensen, who earns about $113,000 a year, refused to assign blame for the error, but she said that after the board certifies the votes, it would focus on finding out what went wrong.
Ross K. Goldstein, deputy administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections, said yesterday that he is not aware of any provisions in state election law that would allow the state board to mete out sanctions.
However, he said State Board of Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone plans to consult with Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. to find out “what sort of control she can exert over the process” to avoid missteps in the November general election.
Jon Ward contributed to this report.