Baltimore’s election board on Monday solidified state Senate Majority Leader Catherine Pugh’s victory in the city’s Democratic mayoral primary, certifying the results despite concerns of election watchdogs who say the polling process was flawed.
Those watchdogs, and some city council candidates, had called on the state to halt certification of the results and investigate irregularities that they described as sloppy and suspicious.
Armstead B.C. Jones, director of the Baltimore City Board of Elections, acknowledged that the board faced logistical challenges in the April 26 primary but insisted that the results were legitimate.
“Every vote has been counted and verified,” Jones said. “The proper process has been followed, and I’ve certified the election.”
The certified results show Pugh winning the primary with 48,674 votes, compared with 46,225 for runner-up Sheila Dixon, a former Baltimore mayor. There were 133,044 ballots cast.
Candidates have three days from the time of certification to request a recount, but such a move would be unlikely to change the outcome, considering the size of Pugh’s lead. Dixon would have to post a bond to cover the cost of a recount, which would be refunded if the winner of the race changed.
“I’m grateful to the citizens of Baltimore for electing me as the Democratic nominee, and I’m looking forward to the general election,” Pugh said Monday. She declined to comment on the calls for an investigation.
Anthony Jones, a spokesman for Dixon’s campaign, said the candidate will decide what to do next after a close review of the precinct-level results, which her team expected to complete Tuesday.
Pugh declared victory on the night of the election, when unofficial vote counts showed her leading Dixon by about 2,000 votes.
Dixon congratulated Pugh that evening and told supporters: “If it was God’s will, if it was the people’s will, we would win. So it wasn’t the will, but we put up a big fight.”
She also said, “I’m not through yet,” and told media outlets in subsequent days that she had not necessarily conceded the race.
Last week, activists sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan (R), asking him to probe irregularities, including late-opening polling stations; alleged conflicts of interest among campaign staffers who worked as election judges; polling-machine memory sticks that were missing for about 24 hours; and problems with resources, including shortages of ballots and ballpoint pens at some centers.
Jones, spokesman for the Dixon campaign, said many of the problems stemmed from a vendor failing to provide all the poll workers it had promised, forcing the board to fill dozens of gaps with a “last- minute email blast” to Baltimore City employees who were trained the day before the primary.
The missing ballots were ultimately located and added to the vote tallies, Jones said, and none were compromised in the process.
A court injunction required the four precincts that opened late to stay open later than initially scheduled that night, in order to make up for the lost time.
Civil rights advocates have said the primary-day voting problems could diminish confidence in the city’s election process and potentially discourage voters from taking part in future elections.
Armstead Jones, the election director, said the snags were “nothing beyond what usually happens in an election.”
Barring a recount or a legal challenge, Pugh will face Republican Alan Walden and Green Party candidate Joshua Harris in the general election. She will be the overwhelming favorite to win in the heavily Democratic city.
Democrats say a long list of Baltimore politicians are eyeing Pugh’s state Senate seat, including Dels. Antonio L. Hayes and Barbara Robinson and City Council member Nick Mosby. Baltimore’s Democratic Central Committee will select a nominee, who must be approved by the governor.