The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics will count 2,255 Democratic absentee ballots on Friday to help determine whether incumbent Vincent B. Orange or challenger Sekou Biddle won the city’s April 3 Democratic primary for an at-large council seat.
With Orange leading by just 543 votes, the outcome could still tilt the race in Biddle’s favor or, at the very least, guarantee a citywide recount.
In addition to the absentee ballots, which had to be postmarked by the close of business April 3, the elections board is considering how many of the 3,867 provision ballots cast on election day will be counted.
If Orange’s margin slips below 1 percent, the board will conduct a taxpayer-funded recount. Orange’s current lead amounts to a 1.2 percent margin over Biddle.
To prepare for a possible recount, Biddle has been reaching out to campaign attorneys and has largely kept his campaign team in place.
Orange appears increasingly optimistic that he will maintain his lead and is disbanding his campaign. Instead of gearing up for a legal fight, Orange said over the weekend that he’s attending to his council work to oversee this year’s weeklong Emancipation Day celebration.
“For all intents and purposes, I don’t see Sekou making up this lead,” said Orange’s campaign manager, Doug Sloan, adding he was not speaking for the campaign. “I see this thing being over.”
But with thousands of ballots potentially still up for grabs, few observers are willing to definitely predict a victory for Orange. Many of the absentee ballots were sent to precincts that Biddle carried on Election Day. A Washington Post analysis published last week concluded that Biddle should expect to pick up from 100 to 400 votes from the absentee ballots.
On Tuesday evening, the elections board will post online which provisions ballots it has tentatively decided to count in the final results. If a ballot is rejected, residents will have until Friday to file an appeal with the board, said Alysoun McLaughlin, a board spokeswoman.
On Friday afternoon, the board will begin counting the absentee ballots and will update the totals that evening, McLaughlin said. The board will also select one precinct per ward to conduct a random audit of the results.
After the audit on April 17, the elections board will certify the final results the following day.