Monday, November 30, 2009

DCBOEE Followed the Law Regarding the “Marriage Initiative of 2009”

On November 17, the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE) issued its decision that the “Marriage Initiative of 2009” is “not a proper subject of initiative because it would authorize discrimination prohibited under the Human Rights Act (‘HRA’).”

The DCBOEE’s memorandum opinion and order states that “[u]nder current law, the District recognizes same-sex marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions. The proposed Initiative seeks to prohibit the District from continuing to recognize these same-sex marriages. The Initiative instructs that ‘only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in the District of Columbia.’ If passed, the Initiative would, in contravention of the HRA, strip same-sex marriage couples of the rights and responsibilities of marriages currently recognized in the District.

“The District’s Initiative, Referendum and Recall Procedures Act requires the Board to refuse to accept referenda and initiatives which violate the HRA. Because the Initiative would authorize discrimination prohibited by the HRA, it is not a proper subject for initiative, and may not be accepted by the Board.

“ORDERED that the Initiative is RECEIVED BUT NOT ACCEPTED pursuant to D.C. Official Code § 1-1001.16(b)(2).”

The law is what it is.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Today In History

On this date in 1917, 41 suffragists were arrested when picketing outside the White House. According to, some, including Paul and Lucy Burns, go on a hunger strike while in jail. Of course, their militancy earns them sympathy from some and disdain from others.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Council of the District of Columbia Passes the “Omnibus Election Reform Act of 2009”

D.C. City Council’s second and final vote on Tuesday, November 3, on Bill 18-345, the “Omnibus Election Reform Act of 2009”, served as a major step forward for voting in the District of Columbia.

It will be remembered as the day when the City Council voted unanimously, with amendments, to make voting and registering to vote easier for D.C. residents. In addition, Bill 18-345 will hold the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE) more accountable for the administration of elections.

During the Council’s November 3 deliberations on Bill 18-345, the bill was amended by:
• Requiring a voter who uses the same-day registration process, which allows a District of Columbia resident to register and vote on election day, to vote provisionally by casting a special ballot subject to the DCBOEE determination of eligibility before counting the ballot; and
• Retaining the provision in the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations, Title 3, Elections and Ethics, regarding certification that the circulator of a petition for an initiative or referendum “has not made any false statements regarding the initiative or referendum to anyone whose signature is appended to the petition.”

I support these amendments and believe they strengthen the bill.

Friday, November 6, 2009

DCBOEE Decision Is Still Pending on the “Marriage Initiative of 2009”

The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE) conducted a hearing on the “Marriage Initiative of 2009” on October 26 and has not issued an order of their decision.

During the “Public Matters” portion of the meeting of the DCBOEE on Wednesday the Members of the Board were asked by a citizen when they would issue their order for the Initiative. Board Chairman Errol Arthur replied that “they cannot put a timetable on it.” The citizen pressed on by asking, “Before Christmas?” He again replied that “they cannot put a timetable on it.”

In the meantime, you can read documents received by the DCBOEE related to the Initiative on the DCBOEE Web site at

There is nothing in the D.C. Election Laws or in the DCBOEE regulations that puts a “timetable” on when the Board must issue a decision on an initiative.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Today In History

On this day in 1872, suffragist Susan B. Anthony
is fined $100.00 for attempting to vote in a United States presidential election. She never paid the fine.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

D.C.’s Open Voter Roll Is in Stark Contrast to Virginia’s Strict Law Denying Access to Theirs

A recent article in The Washington Post reveals a stark contrast between D.C.’s open voter roll and Virginia’s strict law about who has access to theirs.

Reporter Frederick Kunkle reported that Know Campaign’s intention to use the voter roll, which included voter history, was going to be used for a “mass mailing “to “simply motivate people to vote” in the upcoming statewide election on November 3.

“Under Virginia law, the Board of Elections can furnish lists of voters only to the courts, the Department of Motor Vehicles, bona fide political candidates, political parties, political action committees and nonprofit groups that promote voter education or registration,” Kunkle reports. “The law further restricts access to voting histories, prohibiting the Board of Elections from giving the histories to anyone except candidates, elected officials or political party chairmen. Those who do obtain the lists are also required to sign a statement, under penalty of perjury, promising not to disseminate the information to those not authorized to have it.”

However, in the District of Columbia, anyone who has $10.00 can obtain a copy of D.C.’s voter roll including political party affiliations, registration dates, and voter histories. The same information is available for public review in hard copies in the Board’s office and in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Public Library.

Once purchased, D.C.’s voter roll can be used for political, nonpartisan, and commercial purposes. It can also be re-packaged and re-sold.

This is quite a contrast to Virginia’s law. Wouldn’t you say?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

In the spirit of Halloween, I am posting a picture of my favorite 2009 carved pumpkin that I found in my neighborhood. Happy Halloween, Everyone!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Today In History

On this day, in 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor by President Grover Cleveland.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

D.C. Federation of Citizens Association Focuses on Bill 18-345

At the D.C. Federation of Citizens Association (DCFCA) Delegate Assembly meeting tonight, I was asked the tough questions with regard to the District's voter roll and Bill 18-345. The Assembly paid special attention on the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics’ (DCBOEE) ability to implement the proposed changes in time for the 2010 elections.

As the keynote speaker at tonight’s meeting, DCFCA President Carroll Green asked me to address the question of "How does one reform a severely flawed system without first purging the rolls?" In an attempt to answer the question, I addressed the current actions being taken by the new DCBOEE Executive Director Rokey Suleman III and the limitations of federal election law. And, togehter, we reviewed and discussed Bill 18-345 and how it will impact the administration of elections in the District.

As active members in their respective communities, those present had anecdotal examples of how it could help and hurt D.C. voters.

Among others, the group zeroed in on the following issues:

• The additional impact on the pollworkers if same-day registration is enacted considering their regular duties, including curbside voting;

• The impact that same-day registration will have on an already bloated voter roll, including duplicate names and names of those who are deceased (a printout of voters was shared with the group);

• University students using same-day registration to vote in D.C.’s September primaries and then voting in their home states in the November general elections;

• The importance of voter education to ensure that voters are ready for the 2010 elections, and the possibility of involving the D.C. League of Women Voters;

• The need to educate voters about how to use the new voting machines to ensure that their votes are counted;

• The impact that same-day registration will have on turnout on Election Day with regard to the facilities used as polling places (entrance to St. John’s College was used as an example);

• The occurrence in a recent primary whereby voters were given party ballots for a party other than the one in which they were registered, according to the poll book; and

• Ensuring that voter cards issued on Election Day match the voters who signed the poll book and that they do not also receive and vote an absentee ballot.

It was a rewarding experience for me to have spent time with this informed group of individuals who are engaged in their communities.

Monday, October 19, 2009

DCBOEE to Hold a Public Hearing on the “Marriage Initiative of 2009”

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE) has scheduled a special meeting to conduct a public hearing to determine whether the “Marriage Initiative of 2009” is the proper subject matter for an initiative. The hearing will take place on Monday, October 26, 2009, at 10:00 a.m. in the Old Council Chamber in the One Judiciary Square building at 441 Fourth Street, N.W.

Anyone who wishes to present testimony is requested to do the following: provide your name, address, telephone number, and the name of the organization you are representing (if any) by calling the DCBOEE General Counsel’s office at 727-2194 no later than Friday, October 23.

I have pasted below the short title, summary statement and legislative text of the proposed initiative:

“Marriage Initiative of 2009”

The initiative, if passed, will provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in the District of Columbia.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE ELECTORS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, That this act may be cited as the “Marriage Initiative of 2009.”

Sec. 2. Chapter Forty-Three of An Act To establish a code of law for the District of Columbia, approved March 3, 1901 (Title 46, Subtitle I, Chapter 4 of the District of Columbia Official Code, D.C. Official Code § 46-401 et seq.), is amended by adding a new section providing as follows:

Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in the District of Columbia.

Sec. 3. Effective Date. This act shall take effect in accordance with the provisions of § 1-1001.16 and § 1-206.02 of the District of Columbia Official Code.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Requirements for Pollworkers under D.C. Bill 18-345

Pollworkers are the frontline workers on Election Day for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE). To the voters, they are the face of the election while providing a much appreciated service to the citizens of the District of Columbia.

Bill 18-345, the “Omnibus Election Reform Amendment Act of 2009”, is amending the Election Code in two areas that relate to pollworkers. Among other things, I am addressing below only two of the amendments that I believe will most affect DCBOEE.

First, Bill 18-345 requires the DCBOEE to “provide a field on voter registration forms to allow an applicant to include his or her interest in working as a polling place worker during the next election”. If passed, this would be an excellent amendment to the law and an excellent recruitment tool that I have advocated for years. Other jurisdictions have been doing it and benefitting from it for a long time.

The United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) conducted a best practices study on pollworkers and produced Successful Practices for Poll Worker Recruitment, Training, and Retention, July 2007, 2nd Edition at The study includes comprehensive information that election administrators need for success on the frontline on Election Day.

The EAC suggests using the voter registration forms for double duty service to include a check box to indicate a registrant’s interest in serving as a pollworker. According to the EAC report, a number of States and jurisdictions include such a check box on both voter registration and on change of address forms. Further, the check boxes on the forms let those who are registering to vote know that they are also welcome and needed to serve at the polls.

Second, if Bill 18-345 is passed by the City Council and becomes law, pollworkers will be required to “complete at least 4 hours of training”. This amendment needs to be considered based on the restrictions of time for our volunteer pollworkers who are paid a small stipend for a long day of community service Election Day.

At the City Council’s Committee on Government Operations and the Environment's July 13, 2009, public hearing on Bill 18-345, Kenlee Ray, a Ward Two Precinct Captain, testified that the four hour training requirement for pollworkers should be removed from the bill.

“Today’s pollworkers need better-designed training and supplemental materials that reflect the ‘best practices’ one finds in high performing organizations, not longer training sessions,” Ray stated. “High performing organizations started to move away from long sessions in the mid-90’s and replaced them with short 45 to 60 minute sessions followed by more targeted training delivered in the form of quick tips and updates.”

“Many of my workers have demanding jobs, or are independent consultants, and can’t take the time away from work for long training sessions,” Ray further stated. “Faced with a 4-hour requirement, most of them will quit.”

As a Precinct Captain from 2004 through the three 2008 elections, she spoke eloquently at the public hearing from her experiences, “during this last election (Blogger’s note: November 4, 2008 Presidential General Election) a lot of young adults volunteered to work at the polls. Since the average age of an election worker in the US is 73, we need to keep the Nextgen engaged as pollworkers. They act and think in different ways. They respond to sound bites and they want training to be delivered through a variety of media including podcasts, wikis, and tweets.”

“High performing organizations deliver training to the individual’s desktop or other electronic devices, thus allowing the individual to fit the training sessions into his schedule and to his learning pace,” Ray said. “The belief that DC pollworkers must troop down to Judiciary Square to receive training is outmoded. ‘One Size Training’ does not work. Some workers quickly master new skills. However, several in the current pool of election workers have such a lack of education or basic work and life skills that they would have difficulty mastering the pollworker jobs even if they received weeks of training.”

As a Precinct Captain who supervises DCBOEE front line pollworkers in only one of the District’s 143 polling places, I find Ms. Ray’s comments to be invaluable. Unfortunately, the practical experiences of other 142 Precinct Captains were not heard at the public hearing, because she was the only one to testify.

I support Ray’s comments wholeheartedly. However, I wonder about the invaluable insights the other 142 Precinct Captains might have had to offer the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment. I further wonder about why were they not there?

Monday, October 12, 2009

D.C. Affairs Section of the D.C. Bar to Host Program on Elections Reform Bill

James Bubar yesterday announced that the D.C. Affairs Section of the D.C. Bar is hosting a program on Bill 18-345, the “Omnibus Election Reform Act of 2009”, on Friday, October 16, from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. The event will take place at Wiley Rein law firm at 1776 “K” Street, N.W.

In his announcement at, Bubar stated that the program speakers will be Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Government Operations and the Environment, and Eric Marshall, Campaign Manager, National Campaign for Fair Elections, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Voting Rights Project.

Everyone is welcome to attend and the event is free; however, an RSVP is requested by sending an e-mail to Sally Kram at

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Impact of D.C. Bill 18-345

Bill 18-345, the “Omnibus Election Reform Act of 2009”, is making its way through the final stages of the City Council’s legislative process. If enacted, the bill would make major changes to the voting and election administration processes in our city.

Unfortunately, the committee print of Bill 18-345, which is before the City Council, is not available online for public review. Therefore I have pasted below the areas of our election law and regulations that would be impacted by the passage of Bill 18-345.

Voter Registration: To allow persons who are 17 to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 at the time of the next general election; to allow for pre-registration of persons 16 years old; to add the Department of Corrections and the Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services
to agencies covered under the National Voter Registration Act; and to permit same-day registration on election day.

Voting Procedures: To allow for no-fault absentee voting which would remove the requirement to provide a reason to vote by absentee ballot; to require the use of early voting centers prior to election day; to allow out-of-precinct voters to cast special ballots for federal and District-wide elections; and to allow the Board to provide blank ballots to uniformed and overseas voters in federal elections.

Pollworkers: To amend the District of Columbia Merit Personnel Act to allow public employees to take paid leave in order to work as a pollworker if they are D.C. registered voters; to expand the pool of eligible polling place workers; to establish training and certification of pollworkers and to require performance management of pollworkers; and to establish a pollworker check-off on voter registration forms.

Election Administration: To establish specific reporting requirements following elections;
to extend the time for retention of voter-verifiable records; to require the posting of summary counts of votes at the precincts; to require summary logs for voter-verifiable record accounting and reconciliation; to require a voting system with a voter-verifiable voter record; to require a competitive contracting process for new voting systems; to establish post-election audit procedures; to authorize the Board to extend voting hours in emergencies; to provide for the assessment of costs for manual recounts; to clarify the timing in the recall process; to amend the District of Columbia Administrative Procedure Act to clarify that vote data are public records; to require the Board to submit an automatic-voter-registration feasibility study; and to require the Board to establish regulations allowing elections observers uniform and nondiscriminatory access to the election process.

Initiative Process: To repeal the “false advertising” provision in the Board’s initiative regulations.

D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics Members: To establish Board Member qualifications; to establish restrictions on Board Members’ activities; and to impose an open meetings requirement for the Board.

In future postings, I will include more specifics to the areas outlined above.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bill 18-345 May Get a City Council Second Reading and Vote as Early as Tuesday, October 20

The City Council’s legislative process requires that legislation must have a second reading and vote by the Council.

That means that the next Council action on Bill 18-345 will be Tuesday, November 3. However, I was informed today by a Council staffer that the Council may have an additional Legislative Meeting on October 20, at which time the second reading and vote could be taken.

This would move up the legislative calendar for Bill 18-345 by two weeks.

For anyone who might want to lobby the Council for amendments to Bill 18-345, time is of the essence.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

District of Columbia Bill 18-345, the "Omnibus Election Reform Act of 2009"

Bill 18-345, as reported out of the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment (CGOE) last Thursday, was on the City Council’s consent agenda today for its 16th Legislative Meeting. It remained on consent without any amendments. Tim Craig of The Washington Post reported on the bill’s highlights at on D.C. Wire.

Earlier this morning, Councilmember Cheh, who chairs the CGOE, offered two amendments which were adopted in the additional Committee of the Whole meeting held before the Legislative Meeting.

Cheh amendment #1 eliminated the eligibility for D.C. government employees to work in the polling place without having to take leave on Election Day. The second Cheh amendment struck the proposed change in the bill to allow “residents of the District” to work at the polling place and inserted the phrase “qualified registered electors in the District” in its place.

In other words, current law remains intact. District government employees can take leave to work on Election Day as long as they are District of Columbia registered voters.

I believe the law should be changed, however, to allow D.C. government employees, who are registered voters in D.C., to take time off from work on Election Day, without having to take leave to work in D.C.’s polling places. Other jurisdictions allow it. There are advantages, because the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics would have computer-savvy, public oriented pollworkers who are used to working with flexibility for a full day.

In my opinion, government employees make good pollworkers.