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Posted at 09:15 AM ET, 08/24/2010

Elections board to hear Fenty request for unaffiliated voters

UPDATED: 9:53 a.m.

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics will hold a special meeting at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to hear a request from the campaign of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to allow unaffiliated voters to participate in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

Marc Elias, an attorney for the Fenty campaign, sent a letter to the board requesting a hearing be held before early voting begins Aug. 30.

Unaffiliated voters are those who list "no party" on their registration.

The elections board recently approved rules to comply with new election laws. Voters must have registered with a party 30 days or more before the Sept. 14th primary to cast ballots in a party's contests. Unaffiliated voters will not be allowed to vote.

According to Elias, the rule-making is not in keeping with past practices and is not consistent with the campaign's discussions with the board's general counsel in July.

The decision is important to Fenty, who is in a tight race against chief challenger Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D). Gray has won seven out of eight Democratic straw polls around the city. One strategy of the Fenty campaign was to broaden the electorate to unaffiliated voters.

Elias, in the letter to the elections board, noted that the rule-making was announced Aug. 12, leaving little time for unaffiliated voters to join the Democratic party by the Aug. 16 registration deadline.

Fenty's request comes after he blocked a D.C. Council-approved bill that would have adopted federal regulations against paying someone to vote or register to vote, or accepting payment to vote or register to vote.

The mayor did not sign the bill while the council was in summer recess. The inaction triggered a pocket veto. Fenty has said he did not sign the legislation because he did not believe council members should change laws that would affect elections in which they were running.

D.C. Wire asked Alysoun McLaughlin, spokeswoman for the elections board, whether unaffiliated voters have participated in primaries in the past as claimed by the Fenty campaign.

She wrote in an e-mail: "I don't know what numbers they are analyzing. Certainly any voter can cast a provisional ballot and we keep a record of that. Voters also change their party affiliation over time, and they may be looking at the current party affiliation.

The answer to your question, in any event, is that ballots of unaffiliated voters have not been counted in primary elections in the past. The single biggest reason that we rejected special ballots in the presidential preference primary in 2008 was because the voter was not affiliated with a party.

The Board issued a rule on August 12 clarifying that policy that they are asking us to reconsider. That is the purpose of the hearing."

By Nikita R Stewart  |  09:15 AM ET, 08/24/2010

Categories:  2010 District Election, 2010 District Election, 2010 District Election, 2010 District Election, 2010 District Election | Tags:  Adrian M. Fenty, D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, Vincent C. Gray

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