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Absentee Ballots To Be Counted In At-Large Council Race

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D.C. Council member Vincent Orange, seen here at a council meeting earlier this year, is still waiting to see if he will head back to the council for another term. 
Mallory Noe-Payne
D.C. Council member Vincent Orange, seen here at a council meeting earlier this year, is still waiting to see if he will head back to the council for another term. 

When dust settled after this month's primary elections in D.C., there was still one council race too close to call: the rematch of Sekou Biddle and Council member Vincent Orange for the at-large seat. Later today, election officials will finally begin to count all of the remaining ballots.

Orange is currently clinging to a razor-thin, 543-vote lead over Biddle. But with more than 5,000 absentee and special ballots still left to count, it stands to be an exciting day at the city's Board of Elections and Ethics. 

Officials are expected to begin the count at this afternoon and the process will likely stretch into the evening. While today's vote count could cement Orange as the at-large council member, it could also trigger an automatic recount. That's because the elections board is required to perform a recount if the margin of the victory is less than 1 percent.

Orange's lead stands just over that threshold at 1.1 percent. If Biddle chips away at Orange's lead, or if Biddle manages to overturn the results and squeak by the incumbent council member, it's highly likely the official winner will not be known until that recount plays itself out.  

Orange , a former Ward 5 council member and candidate for mayor, excelled in his home ward and the wards east of the Anacostia River. Biddle performed well in Wards 1, 2 and 3. The two essentially split voter-rich Ward 4.

While other council members up for reelection cruised to victory in their primary races, Orange has clearly had the toughest fight. Part of that may be due to the Orange campaign’s connections to Jeffrey Thompson, the local fundraiser under federal investigation.

Orange and Biddle are building up quite a history with each other. When the at-large seat first opened up in 2010 and members of D.C.'s Democratic Party had to pick an interim member, it was Biddle who edged out Orange by nine votes. Then, during last year's special election, it was Orange who eked out a victory over Biddle and several other challengers. Now the two are once again battling it out, and it's a close, competitive race that may hinge on just a handful of votes.

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