Baltimore City Council candidates

13th District Councilman Warren Branch and his write-in opponent, Shannon Sneed, interact with voters arriving at Fort Worthington Elementary School to vote. (Amy Davis / The Baltimore Sun / November 8, 2011)

Two Baltimore City Council candidates were poised to overcome write-in challenges Tuesday, converting their Democratic nominations into general election victories.

Councilman Warren Branch of the 13th District was leading write-in challenger Shannon Sneed, widening a margin of victory from the September primary. Meanwhile, political newcomer Nick Mosby appeared to have turned back a write-in challenge from incumbent Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, whom he defeated in the 7th District's Democratic primary.

"It's very humbling for me," Mosby said. "It's truly a special moment. I'm just excited to get started serving the citizens."

Elections officials said they would be calculating candidates' totals until at least Thursday. They said they could count the total number of write-in votes cast, but couldn't say specifically whom they were for until later in the week.

"We have to do that by hand. There are hundreds of pages to go through," said Armstead B.C. Jones Sr., the city's elections director.

Voter turnout was predictably low, with less than 13 percent of registered voters casting ballots. About 23 percent voted in the primary.

Even some of the winning candidates were disappointed with the level of participation

"This is my first citywide election," said City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who was elected easily. "I'm not happy about the turnout. I wanted a mandate to lead. This is not a mandate."

The small number of voters appeared to approve two charter amendments: one that would put aside money for repairing and building schools, and another that would give residents as young as 18 the right to serve on the City Council. Currently, council members must be at least 21.

The rest of the Democratic nominees for City Council appeared to cruise to victory:

1st District Councilman James B. Kraft; 2nd District Democratic primary winner Brandon Scott; 3rd District Councilman Robert Curran; 4th District Councilman Bill Henry, 5th District Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector; 8th District Councilwoman Helen Holton; 9th District Councilman William "Pete" Welch; 10th District Councilman Edward L. Reisinger; 11th District Councilman William H. Cole IV; 12th District Councilman Carl Stokes; and 14th District Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.

Comptroller Joan Pratt and 6th District Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton ran unopposed. Both are Democrats

John Willis, a political science professor and long-time observer of Maryland elections, called Sneed's performance "very impressive."

"It's very hard to be successful in a write-in campaign," he said.

Sneed's campaign complained about issues with voting machines. She declined to comment late Tuesday. Branch said he wanted to see the final tally before discussing the vote.

Kimberly Wiggins, a Sneed campaign organizer, said she had received three calls from Sneed voters who reported that their machines wouldn't let them vote for a write-in candidate.

"Those are just the people I know about, who could find the Sneed campaign number and called us," Wiggins said.

Jones said he'd heard no official reports of problems with machines and such voting issues are usually caused by "human error."

"It could be people don't know how to deal with the machines," he said.