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Bernstein keeps lead after absentee ballots counted

Tara Andrews, Eleanor Wang and Barbara Logan review absentee ballots at the Baltimore City Election Boards office Thursday Sept. 16, 2010. (The Daily Record/Rich Dennison)

Tara Andrews, Eleanor Wang and Barbara Logan review absentee ballots at the Baltimore City Election Boards office Thursday Sept. 16, 2010. (The Daily Record/Rich Dennison)

Challenger Gregg L. Bernstein Thursday added 68 votes to his slim lead in the Democratic primary for Baltimore City State’s Attorney after election officials counted 1,631 absentee ballots.

With 99.3 percent of the precincts reporting and all but provisional and a smattering of outstanding absentee ballots left, Bernstein had 31,187 votes, or 49.2 percent, a 1,363-vote lead over incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy, who had 29,824 votes, or 47 percent. Bernstein had led by 1,295 votes before the absentee ballots were counted. The third candidate, Sheryl A. Lansey, received 2,361 votes.

In a prepared statement, though, Bernstein stopped short of declaring victory.

“We are pleased to see that the absentee ballot results continue to be consistent with the final election day results and look forward to the certification of the election,” Bernstein said. “I thank all the well-wishers and supporters who have contacted us over the past few days.”

Jessamy and Bernstein were not present at the absentee ballot counting.

A spokeswoman for Jessamy declined to say if she planned to concede the election or wait until Sept. 27, when the State Board of Elections certifies the winners. But, she said Jessamy had attorneys at the Baltimore City Elections Board reviewing the collection process and the absentee ballot counting.

Under Maryland law, a candidate who has been defeated has the right to petition for a recount no matter what the margin was. The candidate has three days after the results of the election have been certified to petition for the recount. The recount can then be challenged if it results in a change in the outcome.

Election officials still need to determine the validity of, and the results of up to 1,765 provisional ballots, those flagged because of some question of a voter’s eligibility. There are also some outstanding absentee ballots that can come in until Wednesday, as long as they were postmarked by Sept. 14.

While the candidates were not present, supporters for both camps were on hand to observe the recount, which took place at the Elections Board offices in the Benton Building. Del. Curtis S. Anderson, D-Baltimore City, criticized the low voter turn in Baltimore and the negative tone of the campaign. The State Board of Elections said unofficial turnout was about 24 percent, the lowest since the 1996 primary, when turnout was 25 percent. Montgomery County, with 18 percent, had the lowest turnout rate, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

“The people in Baltimore City who voted were worried about the continuing crime rate, but there were twice as many people who did not even bother to vote,” Anderson said. “What does that say, that they’re still apathetic, or that they didn’t believe in either candidate because of the campaigns that were run?

“I think a lot of people were just persuaded to think, why should I vote for either one of them?” he said.

Also on hand to witness the absentee ballot count was criminal defense attorney and Bernstein supporter Warren A. Brown. He said much of the negativity of the campaign came from the Jessamy camp, which was concerned that their candidate was in danger of losing.

“It was somewhat divisive, but that was a strategy employed by Jessamy’s people and it reflected a certain sense of panic because they were caught with their proverbial pants down,” he said.

He called on Jessamy to concede the election.

“I think it’s really a matter of her obstinance, her ego to a certain extent that she just doesn’t do what 99 percent of the people in her position would do and say gracefully, ‘I lost,’” Brown said.

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