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Posted at 03:17 PM ET, 07/20/2010

Resignation of Board of Elections member jeopardizes primary

Unless the D.C. Council and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty act fast, there might not be a Board of Elections to oversee the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

Errol R. Arthur, chairman of the elections board, announced Monday he is resigning effective Aug. 2, to take another job, according to council sources.

Arthur's resignation means there will be two vacancies on the three-member board, meaning it would lack a quorum if it tries meet after that date.

Since February 2009, the board has been functioning with just two members because the council and the mayor have been unable to agree on a replacement for Lorrena Lenora Cole, the minority party member of the board who resigned following the 2008 elections. Recent decisions such as the board not allowing a referendum on whether to legalize same-sex marriage were decided by only two members.

Arthur's abrupt resignation is forcing some council members scramble behind-the-scenes to seek a quick consensus between Fenty and his chief rival in this year's mayor's race, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), over replacements for Arthur and Cole.

Council member David A. Catania (I-At large) said he and Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) are trying to broker a consensus. They hope to have a list of potential replacements to the mayor and chairman within a day or two.

"Everyone understands this is a third rail and something you cannot mess with or play politics with, " Catania said." We are working off a list we think would be mutually agreeable."

Once nominees are agreed upon, the council will have to return from its summer recess to confirm them so they can be seated before the primary, Catania said. If the nominees are not seated, the board could be paralyzed just as the city is implementing its new early voting and same-day registration laws,

But Cheh, chairwoman of the committee that has oversight over city elections, said the board will make all major decisions pertaining to the primary before Arthur leaves in early August. The board also plans to temporarily grant more powers to its executive director, Rokey Suleman.

"I don't t want anyone to think there is any crisis or issue cause things are quite under control," Cheh said.

--Tim Craig

By Washington Post Editors  |  03:17 PM ET, 07/20/2010

Categories:  2010 District Election

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