Sunday, February 20, 2011

Nominating Petition Challenge Period Underway for the April 26 Special Election

The challenge period to the nominating petitions for the April 26, 2011 Special Election for at-Large Member of the Council is underway at the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE). The challenge period runs from yesterday, Saturday, February 19, through 5:00 p.m. on Monday, February 28.

According to the DCBOEE Releases&id=648&mid=2&yid=2011 and The Washington Post, eleven out of the 19 individuals who picked up nominating petitions have filed the requisite 3,000 signatures needed for ballot access for the special election. Those who filed petitions are: Sekou Biddle (D), Tom Brown (D), Dorothy Douglas (D), Calvin H. Gurley (D), Arkan Haile (IND), Joshua Lopez (D), Patrick Mara (R), Vincent Orange (D), Alan Page (STG), Jacque Patterson (D), and Bryan Weaver (D).

Challenges to their nominating petitions can be filed by any D.C. registered voter on the grounds that a circulator is not a registered voter, the petitioner (signer) is not a registered voter, or the signatures on the petition are in the same hand or do not match those of the registered voters in the Board’s file. (DCBOEE has the authority to and should refer those for criminal prosecution.) Also, petitioners may be challenged because they were not registered at the address on the petition at the time it was signed; however, D.C. law allows those individuals to file a change of address within 10 days of the date that a challenge is filed.

After the challenge period closes, DCBOEE has two weeks to resolve any and all challenges and then we will have a better idea of the names of the candidates on the ballot. However, a challenger or any person named in a challenge may apply within three days of the DCBOEE decision to the D.C. Court of Appeals for review. There is a potential that we may not know the final list of candidates on the ballot until March 18 when the entire ballot access process concludes.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Abysmal Voter Turnout in DC’s Special Elections

There has been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about voter turnout for special elections since the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE) will conduct a citywide Special Election on Tuesday, April 26, 2011. The election will be held for voters to choose an at-Large Member of the D.C. City Council created when Councilmember Kwame Brown won the office of Chairman of the Council last year.

Between 1993 and 2000, the BOEE conducted four citywide special elections with abysmally low voter turnout of 5.5% to a high of 25.7%. The turnout for the September 14, 1993, Special Election for Council Chairman was the highest with 25.7%. The July 22, 1997, Special Election for Council Chairman resulted in the lowest voter turnout of the four at 5.5%. The December 2, 1997 Special Election for at-Large Councilmember rose slightly to 7.5%. And the June 27, 2000, Special Election on Proposed Charter Amendment III garnered 12.2%.

As was the case with these elections, the BOEE will open all voting precincts citywide on April 26. According to the DCBOEE’s testimony before the D.C. Council, it will cost District taxpayers approximately $828,731.02 to open all 143 precincts in the eight wards operating with skeletal staffing. It sounds like a high cost to taxpayers, but to do anything differently this close to the election could end up disenfranchising voters.

Going forward special elections could be conducted differently at lower costs, but that can not happen until there has been a change in the District’s election laws, election regulations, and voter education procedures are in place.