Tuesday, May 4, 2010
As required by the Council when it enacted the Omnibus Election Reform Act of 2009 (D.C. Law 18-103), the DCBOEE submitted its report on March 31, which was the 168th day before the upcoming September 14 Primary. The report outlines an ambitious agenda for changes to be completed in time for the Primary.
The report focuses on technology upgrades; management of the DCBOEE facilities and equipment; staffing and pollworker management; voter education and public information initiatives; and post-election activities.
Some of the salient points in the report are with regard to technology upgrades. This includes the purchase of new voting equipment from Election Systems and Software (ES&S), which I wrote about two postings ago. Using federal funds provided by the Help America Vote Act 2002, the District entered into an agreement to purchase 175 optical scan paper ballot voting machines; 200 touch screen voting machines with a paper audit trail and accessible for individuals with disabilities; two central count optical scan machines for absentee voting; and the software and peripheral equipment needed to run the system.
In addition, the Board purchased a mail sorting machine from Pitney Bowes for absentee voting. The machine assembles the absentee material to be sent to a voter, including the ballot.
At the time the report was submitted to the Committee, the Board was looking into other technological changes such as replacing the voting precincts' paper lists of voters with electronic poll books; online pollworker training; and tools for military and overseas voters.
It is already turning out to be an exciting Primary for voters, because of the candidates coming forward to run for public office; however, it is also turning out to be an exciting Primary for the DCBOEE and its staff, because of all teh changes to the voting process and the new technologies that will be used for the first time in September.
PR 18-792, the “District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics Mital Ghandi Confirmation Resolution of 2010"
Good afternoon Councilmember Cheh and staff. I am a Ward One resident, the former Public Affairs and Program Development Manager for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (Board), and am a Certified Election/Registration Administrator. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on PR 18-792, the "District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics Mital Ghandi Confirmation Resolution of 2010".
The vacancy for which Board Nominee Mital Ghandi is seeking to fill has existed since February of 2009. The existence of the vacancy for such a long period of time on the three member Board is not fair to the two currently sitting Members and is not good for democracy. With the Council's approval, the Mayor can nominate individuals to fill D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics' vacancies with registered voters from either the D.C. Statehood Green or Republican parties or by a voter registered as an independent with no party affiliation.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Ghandi at a Board meeting when he was nominated the first time and spoke with him on the telephone over the weekend. I have found him to be a gracious man who wants to serve the District and is doing so as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for Single Member District 3E05 and is a member of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
As a nominee, I have a series of questions that I would like for Mr. Ghandi to answer on the public recored. They are:
- Does Mr. Ghandi plan to resign from his position as Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 3E05 as a matter of conflict of interest as other Members of the Board have done in the past?
- District law does not allow Members of the Board to hold a paid office or employment in the District government. Does Mr. Ghandi plan to resign from his appointed position on the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board for which he receives a stipend?
- According to his resume, Mr. Ghandi served as an international election observer almost 5 1/2 years ago. Did Mr. Ghandi's interest in elections end in the Ukraine and start up again when Mayor Fenty wanted to nominate him to the Board?
- Why did he not step up in 2008 during the September Primary and November General Elections when the Board could have used his technological skills when the Board was severely challenged at the time?
- And finally, according to Mr. Ghandi's resume, his business, People Reach LLC, is a certified local small disadvantaged business enterprise (LSDBE). Does Mr. Ghanadi's company currently have any contracts with the District government which he would have to curtail if he is appointed to the Board?
In closing, the Board's Fiscal Year 2011 proposed budget has been reduced by approximately $100,000 which will adversely affect the Baord during two challenging elections later this year. As a result, the Board's effectiveness could suffer by cutting two permanent staff positions.
That is why I am wearing my "SOS" pin today which represents the Save Our Safety Net campaign supporting Councilmember Jim Graham's legislation for a Millionaire's Tax in the District of Columbia. I do not support making budget cuts on the backs of poor people or to the services of the Board as it works to keep our elections free, fair, and transparent.
This concludes my testimony and I am available to answer any questions you may have.