Activists seeking a November vote to ban corporate donations in the District will file suit Monday challenging a D.C. Board of Elections ruling that they did not have enough signatures, arguing a recount would prove they easily cleared the threshold to qualify for the ballot.
In a surprise ruling that jolted progressive activists, the board ruled two weeks ago that the effort by D.C. Public Trust fell 1,726 signatures short of the valid signatures needed from 5 percent of registered voters, which equals 23,298 residents.
The board invalidated about 9,000 signatures because they allegedly belonged to unregistered voters, duplicated other valid signatures or contained missing addresses or addressees that didn’t match voter records.
But Bryan Weaver, a Ward 1 civic activist who helped head up the petition effort, said the D.C. Public Trust volunteers have since recounted their submissions twice. The recount, they will allege in court, revealed at least 24,500 signatures from valid registered voters.
Weaver said the group suspects that elections officials, who appeared to use check marks to identify qualified voters miscounted their work when they tallied the petitions.
Weaver said the group also believes that the board improperly disqualified about 1,000 registered voters. The group plans to request an emergency hearing in D.C. Superior Court to reverse the board’s decision.
“The work of the Board of Elections gets to the heart of our democracy,” added Weaver. “What we found in our review raises serious concerns about the integrity of the democratic process in local D.C. elections.”
Ken McGhie, general counsel for the elections board, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Prompted by the spate of ethical questions and scandals in city government, the proposed referendum for the Nov. 6 ballot would ban direct political contributions from corporations and businesses. It would not affect labor unions, political action committees or individuals.
Several elected officials have expressed reservations about the referendum, questing whether it would just lead to more indirect campaign spending. But acknowledging the referendum will likely pass if it makes it on the ballot, most elected officials have decided not to actively campaign against it.