Officials from the Carroll County Board of Elections will tabulate absentee ballots today in an effort to settle which two candidates will serve 4-year terms on the county's school board.
As of late Tuesday, with all 43 precincts reporting, Thomas G. Hiltz of Woodbine led with 27,779 votes. Susan Holt of Sykesville was second with 24,839 votes, followed by Lisa Breslin of Westminster with 24,324 and Stephen M. Nevin of Finksburg with 21,981.
Patricia Matsko, Carroll's election director, said 3,280 absentee ballots had been issued. As of yesterday morning, 2,930 had been returned, she said.
Janet Jump, president of the five-member elections board, recruited 20 Democrat and 20 Republican volunteers to count the ballots.
Volunteers will remove the ballots from envelopes and make sure they have not been tampered with. They will then prepare them for scanning. The process is to begin at 10 a.m.
Matsko said she was surprised the absentee ballots would be so critical to the school board race. "We were focused on the closeness of the presidential race," she said.
Close races relying on absentee ballots are not unusual in Carroll County, Matsko said.
In a special election in May 1998, absentee voters rejected a proposed change in the form of Carroll's government by a narrower margin than the rest of voters, though they didn't change the outcome.
In the September Republican primary of that year, Del. Carmen Amedori had to wait until absentee ballots were counted to confirm her narrow victory over W. David Blair of Manchester.
Absentee ballots are largely used by residents who have second homes outside the state, college students, military personnel and businesspeople who are out of town, Matsko said.
Although the elections board expects to have an unofficial total on the race by mid-afternoon today, it won't have official results until Nov. 17, the cutoff date for absentee ballots to be returned and tallied.
The two new members of the Carroll County School Board will begin their terms in January.
Matsko isn't making any predictions about who they will be. "I have no clue," she said.