Call for recount possible in 2 races

Democrats decline to concede in delegate races, raise concerns

November 19, 2006|By Anica Butler | Anica Butler,sun reporter

Two well-known Democrats who apparently fell just shy in their House of Delegates bids declined to concede defeat Friday, as their attorney raised concerns that county election officials rejected more than 200 provisional ballots. The Democrats may seek a recount.

In the final tally reported by the county Board of Elections Friday, Republican Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. edged out Democrat Del. Joan Cadden by 28 votes. Meanwhile, Annapolis jewelry store owner Ronald A. George, a Republican, defeated two-term County Councilwoman Barbara Samorajczyk, a Democrat, by 53 votes.

Both races were for the third seat in three-member House districts.

Dwyer and George declared victory Friday, after waiting more than a week after Election Day for all the ballots to be counted.

"There's nothing left to count," Dwyer said Friday, adding that he is not concerned about a recount.

"If there's a recount or a court challenge, it's basically sour grapes," the conservative lawmaker said.

While Cadden hinted Friday that lawyers and party leaders are examining a number of issues surrounding the close election, she would not elaborate. She did say, as did an attorney representing her campaign, that the main concern is over more than 200 paper ballots cast Election Day - provisional ballots - that later were rejected.

Andrew D. Levy, a Baltimore attorney who is representing the Cadden and Samorajczyk campaigns in the matter, said that while watching the counting of the paper ballots, he was concerned because on the outside of a number those rejected ballots, people indicated they'd registered to vote at a Maryland MVA office.

"I find it difficult to believe that a couple of hundred people think they registered at the MVA and were mistaken," Levy said. "It strikes me as more likely that they registered and the registration never made it to the Board of Elections."

Levy said that the concern is based on anecdotal evidence and that he did not know how many of the rejected ballots were cast by those claiming to have registered at the MVA. He added that there's no way to know whom those ballots would benefit if they were counted. Right now, he said, they merely are looking into the issue.

"As a general matter, every vote should be counted," Levy said. "Everyone who wants to have a voice should, whether they're Democrats, Republicans, Greenies, you name it."

Barbara L. Fisher, the county's elections director, said Friday that her office had not received any complaints or heard any concerns about the rejected provisional ballots. She added that the number of ballots rejected, about 200, was typical for an election. Most were rejected because the person who submitted the ballot did not show up on any voter rolls, Fisher said. About 3,400 provisional ballots were included in the final tally, along with about 15,600 absentee ballots.

Both Republicans, who trailed after Election Day, were buoyed by those absentee ballots but held off on declaring victory because they were ahead by such a small number of votes by midweek. A final batch of about 200 absentee ballots - mostly from overseas - was counted Friday.

George said that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s vocal support of absentee ballots helped push him over the top.

"I'm excited it was close because everyone made a difference. I felt pretty confident that in the end we were going to pull up," he said. "I'm excited to start focusing now on the session that is coming up."

Dwyer - who in his first term has stressed his conservative positions on issues such as his opposition to gay marriage and abortion - also said he was looking forward and was energized by the slim victory.

"Amidst all the negative press I received and the lack of endorsements, it's an honor to still be re-elected by the vote of the people," he said. "This is just a wonderful day and confirms that the voters in my district support my values and views."

Dwyer said he's not at all concerned about a recount.

Cadden, a three-term Democrat from Brooklyn Park, had said last week that if the final tally remained close, she'd ask for a recount. But by Friday, she and Samorajczyk said they were considering the options before making a decision.

The final vote count is to be certified by the state Board of Elections on Dec. 8, Fisher said. After that, candidates will have three days to make a request to the state board for a recount. Fisher said she had no idea how long such a count would take, since the last recount occurred in 1998.

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