Pines Hand Count Reveals Vote Discrepancies

OCEAN PINES – A hand count of votes from the 2022 board election revealed significant discrepancies in vote totals for the six candidates, but the Ocean Pines Elections Committee reports more information is needed to identify what went wrong during the tabulation process.

Last Friday, members of the elections committee met to hand count paper ballot votes for the 2022 Board of Directors election after it was learned there was an error in the number of reported votes.

The hand count, performed by committee members and volunteers, revealed totals were off by more than 100 votes for five of the six candidates and that 15 votes now separates the third- and fourth-place candidates, Monica Rakowski and Amy Peck.

“The hand counting of paper ballots today verified the number of paper ballots received, including duplicates requested by owners of multiple properties and requests for other reasons,” a report from Ocean Pines Elections Committee Chair Carol Ludwig reads. “This hand count also verified that the tabulation program needs to be investigated to identify the reason for the reporting an excess of votes, above the maximum number of paper ballots, that were scanned on 8/11/22.”

She continued, “The failure to verify the information generated by the tabulation program resulted in an inaccurate report of results by Elections Committee Chair.”

Election results were first called into question last month when the committee released its report on the 2022 election.

In August, the committee announced the six candidates – Steve Jacobs, Stuart Lakernick, Josette Wheatley, Paula Gray, Rakowski and Peck – received a total of 9,053 votes.

The report, however, states a total of 2,839 online and paper ballots were returned in the 2022 board election. With each property given the opportunity to vote for up to three candidates, that would mean a maximum 8,517 votes could be counted.

To that end, the committee announced plans to hold a hand count of paper ballot votes.

In a statement last week, Ludwig noted a preliminary count of paper ballots on Sept. 23 showed an error in tabulations.

“When the error in the number of ballots versus the number of votes tabulated was identified, Elections Committee requested an opportunity to count the number of paper ballots …,” she said. “Verifying that the number of ballots in my report was very close, we were then able to separate the online results from the tabulated votes for each candidate and identified that the error was in the scanner/tabulations results.”

Following last Friday’s hand count, a report on the results show Gray received 836 votes (191 less than originally reported), Wheatley received 990 votes (313 less than originally reported), Peck received 1,348 votes (103 less than originally reported), Rakowski received 1,363 votes (240 less than originally reported), Lakernick received 1,682 votes (120 less than originally reported) and Jacobs received 1,894 votes (27 more than originally reported).

The difference between the third- and fourth- place candidates has narrowed from 152 votes to 15 votes, and the total number of votes has decreased from 9,053 to 8,113.

“In the coming months, the Elections Committee will review our processes, investigate glitches in the current tabulation/scanner programs, working towards the delivery of accurate information,” Ludwig said. “We offer our sincere apologies for two weeks of uncertainty as we moved cautiously towards what we felt was the most immediate resolution – to provide the correct results.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.