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.

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