- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The first batch of absentee ballots counted last week trimmed to 61 votes the already slim lead held by Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson in his District 1 Democratic primary race against former Commissioner Sam Graves, who is awaiting the canvassing of 276 provisional ballots Wednesday before deciding whether to petition for a recount.
Robinson (D) sweated his way through the June 24 primary before ending the day with a narrow 85-vote lead against Graves — 7,080 votes to 6,995 votes — but the first canvass of absentee ballots June 26 returned 125 votes for Graves and 101 for Robinson, leaving the incumbent with 50.2 percent of the total vote to Graves’ 49.8 percent.
The other four Democratic commissioner nominees won their primaries by comfortable margins and saw their leads enhanced by absentee ballots.
Graves said he spoke to officials at the Charles County Board of Elections office in La Plata the day of the absentee canvass. A second and final absentee canvass is scheduled for July 7.
“I’m not going to pursue a recount at this point, but if the gap narrows, I’ll talk to some people about my options,” Graves said. “It’s still too close for me to call right now, to make any decisions.”
Charles County Elections Director Tracy A. Dickerson said the board is reviewing 276 provisional ballots to determine which ones are eligible to be counted Wednesday by canvassers.
State law allows candidates to request a recount free of charge if they are within 0.1 percent of victory. If the margin is more than 0.1 percent, the candidate must pay up front for the labor required to conduct the recount, a bill determined by the local elections board, Dickerson said.
The 50.2 to 49.8 percent margin represents a 0.4 percent gap.
Graves said he does not have a specific deficit that would serve as his threshold for requesting a recount.
“The magic number I’d like to see is me winning by one,” he said.
Robinson said he remains confident that his victory on primary night will withstand the absentee and provisional ballot counts, adding that a statistically inclined supporter has calculated Graves’ current chances of victory at 0.2 percent.
“Though mathematically possible, it is almost impossible for Mr. Graves to catch me, theoretically,” Robinson said. “I’m not going to claim ultimate victory until every vote is counted, but I’m pretty optimistic that the end count will still have me ahead.”
He called Graves receiving 55 percent of the first batch of absentee votes “almost a statistical anomaly” given that absentee ballots historically mirror election night results.
Robinson said Graves would have to pick up about three of every four outstanding ballots in order to make up the existing gap, “and that seems highly unlikely.”
Were Graves to request a recount, Robinson said he doubts there would be much if any change to the initial results.
“With the machines, I just can’t imagine that there would be a change,” he said. “But if I was in a race this close and ended up on the wrong end, I would look at every available option.”
Should Robinson’s maintain his lead and ultimately claim the Democratic nomination, Graves said he has not ruled out running a write-in campaign for the Nov. 4 general election.