ANNAPOLIS, NOV. 9 -- After narrowly losing the Anne Arundel County executive's race this week, Democrat Theodore J. Sophocleus has asked for a manual recount of selected precincts, his campaign announced today.
Sophocleus, 51, lost Tuesday's general election to Republican Robert R. Neall by 2 percentage points, 3,042 votes out of 115,396 cast. The recount he is seeking focuses on 22 of Anne Arundel's 133 precincts, ones in which he received considerably less support than his strategists had predicted.
County election officer Nancy Crawford said today that for a recount to take place, Sophocleus will have to persuade a Circuit Court judge that there is a reason for one. The candidate also would probably have to pay about $6,300, she said.
Crawford said election officials have offered to do a "quick count" of six randomly selected precincts beginning Monday to spare Sophocleus the trouble of going to court and to "demonstrate the confidence we have in the system."
Sophocleus thinks that a ballot-by-ballot audit is warranted because he questions the reliability of the optical-scanning system of vote counting that the county switched to this year, according to Sophocleus campaign aide Les Cohen. Also, some voters, confused by the new system, may have also marked their ballots incorrectly, Cohen said.
Cohen said the campaign is skeptical of the results because pre-election polls showed Sophocleus, a two-term County Council member from Linthicum, winning by wide margins in the heavily Democratic northern part of the county, the target of the recount. In addition, a countywide exit poll conducted Tuesday morning had Sophocleus leading 56 to 44 percent, he said.
"This is not some casual effort on our part," Cohen said. "We are afraid people will say, 'Get serious. He lost so he is asking for a recount.' "
The targeted precincts, located in the Pasadena and Glen Burnie areas, have large numbers of registered Democrats and a long history of party loyalty, Cohen said. Yet in many of them, there were double-digit discrepencies between Democratic registration figures and the percentage of voters who cast ballots for Sophocleus, he said.
In the most jarring example, a Pasadena precinct, 73 percent of registered voters are Democrats yet Sophocleus received just 57 percent of the votes, Cohen said.
County Executive-Elect Neall, who lost his 1986 bid for Congress by fewer than 500 votes, said he sympathizes with Sophocleus.
"Better than probably anybody else in this county, I understand what he is going through," Neall said. "But sooner or later, you have to look in the mirror and say, 'I did not win this election.' "