Last year, when Leo A. Murray ran as a write-in candidate for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, he won by one vote - his own.
Murray won so easily because, in his single member district, he was unopposed. No candidate had filed the nominating petition required for being listed on the ballot.
This year, about one third of the 365 ANC seats could be filled as easily by write-in candidates because in those districts no candidates have qualified for inclusion on the ballot.
Thus, in some areas of the city, voters will find ANC candidates listed on their ballots, while in other areas there will be blank spaces for write-ins.
ANC commissioners and some city officials have said the once-threatened denial of ANC funds this year could have contributed to so few candidates running.
The word that Congress was considering cutting off ANC funds for the ANCs came just before the filing deadline.
But recently, members of the House and Senate, meeting to discuss the District budget, have tentatively agreed to give the ANCs $400,000 in operating funds this year.
Others said the time given to collect signatures for a candidate's petition was too short - only about a week - and that it came during the Labor Day holiday.
ANC commissioners, who are unsalaried, serve for two years. Each one represents about 2,000 people in what is called a single-member district.
They represent their communities or neighborhoods in dealing with the District government. This role is mostly advisory, telling the city what residents want and need in social service programs, health, police protection, sanitation, recreation and other services.
Jean Davis, the District's ANC coordinator, said that the city, by law, has to give the ANCs 30 days notice about any action or proposed action that the city intends to take.
She said that the city uses the D.C. Register as the vehicle by which ANCs get the notice, but that in some cases city agencies may notify those ANCs that may be directly affected by a proposed action.
"There is a mandate in the law that says that the recommendations of ANCs must be given great weight," Davis said. "In giving the ANC recommendations great weight, city agencies must include their recommendations in that agency's rationale for proposed action and say whether the ANC is for or against the proposal.
Susan Meehan, a commissioner from ANC 2B05, who is running unopposed for reelection, said "good ANCs can be the life blood of a neighborhood, especially one that faces downtown.
"The major effort of our ANC has been to preserve our multi-income and multi-use neighborhood (the Dupont Circle area) from the ravages of being taken over by downtown high-rises," she said.
"The ANCs have a legal status that the civic associations do not have," Meehan said. "It took the legal status of the ANC here to force the city's municipal planning office to hold hearings on rezoning of the Dupont Circle area. Civic associations had tried to get public hearings without success for a long time."
ANCs, which are almost two years old, have come under criticism recently by some city officials who say that ANCs have become an unncessary layer of government. Some residents have also criticized the ANCs, saying that some of them offer little to their communities.