George — who bills herself as a Democratic socialist — captured about 54 percent of the vote in Ward 4, compared to 44 percent for Todd, who was first elected to the council five years ago and is a close ally of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser. She campaigned for him Tuesday.
The vote tally will be updated in coming days to include additional ballots mailed in by Tuesday’s deadline. But George’s lead appears insurmountable.
A former prosecutor in Racine’s office, George was endorsed by both him and council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), a fellow liberal.
In Ward 2, Patrick Kennedy, 28, a Foggy Bottom neighborhood commissioner, was about 100 votes behind Pinto.
Evans, who represented Ward 2 for 29 years, won fewer than 300 votes in the primary out of nearly 8,000 ballots cast.
The Democratic nominee in Ward 2 will be heavily favored this fall against Republican nominee Katherine Venice.
The candidates are also running in a June 16 special election to fill the remainder of Evans’s term.
Council members Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) and Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) both easily won their primaries.
This is a developing story. It will be updated. Original story is below:
D.C. voters braved waits longer than four hours to cast ballots in a city primary election upended by coronavirus and demonstrations against police violence.
The District attempted to shift to a mostly by-mail election to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. But many voters never received the absentee ballots they requested and the city shuttered most of its usual polling places, resulting in lines stretching for blocks.
Results of the election were not available hours after polls closed at 8 p.m., to allow for the voters still waiting in line to cast their ballots. Initial results were not expected until early Wednesday.
A 7 p.m. curfew the mayor imposed as protests continued to sweep the city halted public transportation and forced some voters to come up with alternative travel plans, and caused confusion when an officer improperly told voters lined up at a Georgetown-area polling place to go home.
But residents said they were determined to exercise their voting rights in pivotal local council races and the presidential primary, with some citing the demonstrations against the police killing of George Floyd as inspiration.
“It’s very important to us to vote, because it’s really hard times we’re going through,” said Claudina Harrison, a teacher who was the third-to-last person in line at Malcolm X Opportunity Center in Ward 8 after 9 p.m. “Voting is the safest way to get our voices out and say our voices matter, our votes matter, our lives matter … Everyone out here, that really inspires us to stay a lot longer than they normally would.”
Poet Taylor, a radio host, handed out water and snacks to neighbors who had been waiting in line at the center since 3 p.m. Then she got in line herself at 6:30. At 9 p.m., she remained toward the back.
“You know they thought people wouldn’t show up. They know how many people live east of the river. Why are we standing outside in the dark?” said Taylor.
“People say they care; it sounds good. This is not caring,” she added.
Michael Bennett, the chairman of the D.C. Board of Elections, acknowledged the election did not go smoothly because the agency’s technology was not able to handle the surge of absentee ballot requests, and because voting on Election Day was higher than officials thought it would be.
“The good news is I’m really, really glad we had so many people interested and willing to vote,” Bennett said. “The bad news is everyone decided to vote on the last day that vote centers are open and they decided to do it in person, and that just created an incredible logjam when you consider the fact we are in the middle of a pandemic.”
He also said the election systems struggled to manage more than 90,000 absentee ballot requests — compared to the usual 6,000.
“The system gets clogged and the technology doesn’t tend to have to manage that large of a volume,” said Bennett.
The Democratic primary is tantamount to the general election in deep-blue Washington and will shape the ideological tilt of an increasingly liberal D.C. Council.
In one of the most closely watched races on the ballot, it was unclear whether Jack Evans would be able to advance to try to reclaim the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat he gave up in January amid scandal.
Evans faced seven competitors in his quest to return to the office he held for nearly three decades representing Georgetown; Foggy Bottom, Logan and Dupont circles; and downtown.
Voters in Ward 2 will cast ballots again this month in the special election for the remainder of Evans’s term through January. Evans is not running in that special election, meaning someone could temporarily hold the office for six months.
Council members Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4), Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7), and Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) also were up for reelection.
Multiple candidates also are running in the general election for a seat vacated by David Grosso (I-At Large), one of the furthest-left legislators.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large) were uncontested on the primary ballot and automatically secured the Democratic nominations for the general election.
About a third of voters interviewed by The Washington Post on Tuesday said they were voting in person because their absentee ballots did not arrive.
Board of Elections spokeswoman Rachel Coll said the city decided Monday to allow voting by email for those who had tried and failed to get absentee ballots.
“It’s something we’ve used as an option and we’ve had in reserve,” she said.
To diminish the chance of spreading the novel coronavirus, the city opened only 20 voting centers Tuesday, rather than the usual polling place in each of 143 precincts.
Coll said that each center admitted only 10 people at a time to allow for social distancing, a restriction that contributed to the long lines outside.
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) exempted those voting from the curfew she imposed in response to unrest related to demonstrations, despite criticism from some lawmakers and advocates that confusion surrounding the curfew could depress turnout.
Kevin Donahue, the deputy mayor overseeing public safety, tweeted Tuesday night that the city was reminding police commanders that voting is exempt from the curfew, after people tweeted about an officer warning people waiting in line at the Hardy Middle School polling place after the curfew began to go home. He said officers were notified of the curfew exemption on Sunday.
Voter turnout has been declining in local elections. The 2018 mayoral primary had the lowest turnout in two decades, with all incumbents comfortably reelected.
More than 92,000 voters requested absentee ballots, almost as many as voted both in person and by mail in the 2016 primary election.
As of Sunday, 37,000 of those ballots had been completed and mailed back, Coll said. At least 13,000 cast in-person ballots as of Tuesday evening.
The city will count mailed ballots that are postmarked by Tuesday through June 12, meaning close races may not be called for more than a week.
Reached after polls closed, Evans — who declared just 10 days after his resignation that he would campaign to return to his Ward 2 seat — said it was the first election since his initial 1991 campaign that he didn’t enter Election Day confident in a victory or a loss.
He said some voters gave him a warm reception at polling places, while some operatives who talked to voters told him: “Half of them love you, and half of them hate you.”
“I’ll go with that,” Evans said with a chuckle. “I’ll take half, and then the other half can vote for the other seven people.”
Voter Sam Bunch, 28, a hotel events director who is out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic, read up on all eight candidates. “I haven’t much else better to do, so I did a lot of research,” he said.
He came away very enthusiastic about his chosen candidate, Brooke Pinto. “She’s a badass lawyer chick that wants to get the job done,” he said. “She’s not insanely liberal. She’s not insanely leftist or rightist.”
Denise Martin, 37, a Nordstrom saleswoman, said she chose Patrick Kennedy because of his statements about the need for more affordable housing in the District.
“My issue in this ward in particular is affordable housing. It’s high as heck to live down here,” Martin said.
Up until the morning before she voted, Donna Douglas, 49, was all in for Jordan Grossman, who has run as the most liberal candidate in the race.
“He had me all the way up until I opened my mailbox yesterday,” she said. When she saw a flier from Grossman boasting that he had been endorsed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), “that ended that right there,” she said, adding she felt Klobuchar did not take a strong-enough stance against police brutality when she was a Minneapolis prosecutor.
If Grossman is proud to be associated with the senator, she decided, she wouldn’t vote for him.
“I’m going back to, unfortunately, Jack. Even though he’s corrupt, he can hold his own,” she said.
Voter Pete Spartin, who works in financial services, felt similarly.
“Despite my reservations with Jack, he was the best person for the job,” he said.
The coronavirus and the budget crisis that the resulting shutdown has created for the city left Spartin wanting an experienced legislator.
“With a lot less people working, the tax revenues are going to be down dramatically,” he said. “We need strong fiscal discipline in the city right now. Jack’s been in charge of the finances for a long time.”
In Ward 4, council member Brandon T. Todd, one of the mayor’s closest allies, faced Janeese Lewis George, a more liberal candidate who had received prominent endorsements.
Outside a polling place Tuesday, the mayor campaigned for Todd, who succeeded her as Ward 4 council member after working in her office and on her campaign.
Some of the residents who voted early at the Emery Heights Community Center said they have been satisfied with Todd.
“Brandon Todd has been very good and very helpful, especially to the seniors. He looks out for them. He’ll have his office call and check on us,” said retiree E. Wright, 75.
And Tyler Edge, 25, said he thinks Todd has been effective in improving safety and schools in the ward. But on Election Day, he said he felt George would better understand his fears as a young black man.
“After everything that’s happening, they said the only thing we can really do is vote. I decided to take this very seriously,” he said after casting his ballot Tuesday morning. “I’m definitely scared to come outside today, with the curfew. It’s a very traumatizing experience. I just need hope. I need someone to give me hope right now.”
Gray, a former mayor, and White in Ward 8 are both defending their seats against challengers.
Tim Stagg, who works in police communications, said he has been familiar with Gray for years.
“His ideas stay fresh, and he listens to the people. That’s all you can ask for,” he said.