UPDATED: Cecil County Votes: Long Lines, Absentee Ballot Deluge; Hornberger Prevails for County Exec, Heath Tops School Board

November 4, 2020

[UPDATED with new counts released mid-day Wednesday by election officials]

Cecil County voters braved long lines winding around polling places on Tuesday and during a week of early in-person voting, with wait times averaging an hour or so, in a high-stakes election of national and local importance. But even as early voting, election day and most mail-in ballots were counted by Wednesday morning (11/4/2020), there were still more mail-in, military and provisional ballots to be tallied by 11/13/2020, under state law.

Despite the wave of early in-person voting and crowds of voters showing up on election day, most voters reported lines moved swiftly and Board of Elections staff were well-organized, including provisions for seniors and the disabled to be seated indoors while place-holder cards secured their place in line outdoors.

The key questions for the county were the outcome of a contested race for County Executive and one school board seat, with a Charter amendment pertaining to qualifications to run for County Council also on the ballot.


Danielle Hornberger, a Republican who won her party’s nomination overwhelmingly in the June mail-in ballot primary contest, held a compelling lead over her Democratic challenger, Jeff Kase. Hornberger, who defeated incumbent county executive Alan McCarthy in the GOP primary, recorded a total of 25,517 general election votes, drawn mostly from early in-person voting and Election Day votes, for 66.8 percent of all ballots counted so far.

Kase ran well ahead of Hornberger in the absentee/mail-in ballots tabulated so far, getting nearly twice as many votes as his GOP rival—4,427 for Kase to 2,347 for Hornberger. But he fell far short in early balloting and Election Day returns. Kase recorded a total of 12,575 votes, or 32.9 percent of all ballots cast and counted.

Hornberger, a part-time constituent services aide to US Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) relied heavily on Harris for both financial and political support for her campaign. Her husband, state Del. Kevin Hornberger (R-35) also contributed to her race and recruited massive financial support for her from his own campaign donors including many out of county politicians, lobbyists and businesses. Kase ran a shoestring campaign operation with minimal donations and relied on word-of-mouth and social media postings.


Candidates for the local Board of Education run on a non-partisan basis, without party labels. But one candidate for the contested District 1 seat, Sam Davis, was actively supported by Vincent Sammons, the chairman of the county’s Republican Central Committee and semi-anonymous proprietor of multiple social media pages that promote his own political agenda and attack his perceived enemies.

Davis’ opponent, Dianne Racine Heath, was endorsed by the Cecil County Classroom Teachers Association and supported on the teachers’ “apple ballot” for pro-education local candidates.

Heath held a comfortable lead in votes tallied so far: 17,210 votes from early voting, election day and absentee ballots, or 55.3 percent. Davis received a total of 13,795 votes, or 44.1 percent of the total so far.

Another school board seat, for District 2, was uncontested, assuring Tierney Farlan Davis a seat on the board.


Two incumbent County Council members were unopposed in the general election, with Council President Bob Meffley (R-1) unopposed in both his party primary and in the general election. Councilor Jackie Gregory (R-5) was unopposed on the general election ballot, after winning her party primary against challenger Don Harmer in June. But there were write-in protest votes cast against each of the incumbents in the general election: 875 against Gregory and 825 against Meffley.


Incumbent Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) was always the odds-on favorite to keep his seat in Congress, sitting on a campaign warchest of over $1 million and the beneficiary of political gerrymandering by the state General Assembly that packed as many Republicans as possible into his district, which covers all of the Eastern Shore and portions of Carroll, Harford and Baltimore counties. He spent much of the campaign season challenging Gov. Larry Hogan’s efforts to contain the COVID19 pandemic, appearing maskless at multiple events to demand “re-opening” of businesses and schools in the state.

Harris also poured money, from his own campaign and from political allies and PACs, into the Cecil County Executive race on behalf of Hornberger and the Council primary race on behalf of Jackie Gregory. He also provided multiple glossy mailers, including pictures and endorsements of Hornberger and Gregory, out of his campaign funds but neither of the local candidates reported the campaign boosts as “in kind” donations on their state campaign finance reports.

His Democratic opponent, Mia Mason, ran a spirited but low-budget campaign, relying on social media posts, volunteer sign-waving, and phone banks. She is a military veteran and an LGBTQ rights activist.

In Cecil County, with incomplete results, Harris recorded 26,347 votes, to Mason’s 12,026. But throughout the 1st District, Harris had 67 percent of the total vote so far.


A local ballot question, to amend the county’s Charter to allow people who work for agencies that receive county funds to run for a seat on the part-time County Council. The change was advocated by Councilor Gregory, who was cited by the County Ethics Commission for violations of ethics rules for working as a substitute teacher for county schools while voting on school budgets on the council. She was ordered to resign from either the teaching post or the Council, and she choose to resign from CCPS. She is currently suing the county in state court to challenge the ethics findings.

In votes tallied so far, the Charter amendment to allow such outside employment by Council members received 18,677 YES votes, or 54.8 percent of the total. NO votes were 15,402 or 45.2 percent.


The presidential race in the county was more a matter of bragging rights than impact. The state is overwhelmingly Democratic so the state’s 10 electoral votes are expected to go to Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee. (Four years ago, Democrat Hillary Clinton won over 60 percent of the statewide vote, while coming in a distant second in Cecil County, with just 13,650 votes to Republican Donald Trump’s 28,868 here.)

In Cecil County this year, Trump received 26,067 votes counted so far while Biden received 12,476, or 66 percent to 31.6 percent.


Going into the election, Cecil County had a total of 68,819 eligible voters, with 30,880 Republicans; 21,601 Democrats; 15,110 Unaffiliated (independent) voters; 341 Libertarians and a handful of people affiliated with minor parties. New voters could also register at the polls during early voting and on election day, so the totals will rise slightly. So far, 187 new voters signed up at the polls but a party breakdown was not available and additional new voters were expected to register at the polls on Tuesday.


During the week-long early voting period that concluded on Monday, early voting in-person tallied 15,945—or 23.17 percent of eligible voters in the county. In comparison. the statewide early voting turnout was 23.93 percent.

For this election, registered voters received a form in the mail to request an absentee ballot—due to the COVID19 pandemic. A total of 15,997 absentee ballot requests were received by the Board of Elections in Cecil County. As of Monday, a total of 12,325 absentee ballots had been sent back and received by the BOE.

Democrats had a higher number of absentee ballot requests, with 7,552 requested and 6,166 returned to the BOE. For Republicans, there were 5,044 absentee ballots sent out and 3,767 had been returned as of Monday. Unaffiliated and other party members requested 3,401 absentee ballots and 2,392 had been returned as of Monday.

Absentee ballots could be returned by mail or by depositing them in BOE drop-boxes set up at the County Administration Building in Elkton or at each of the county’s high schools. In person early voting was held only at the administration building but on Election Day polls were open at that site as well as the county’s high school buildings.

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