In a decision aimed at sharply reducing future confusion about Advisory Neighborhood Commission elections, a member of the D.C. Board of Elections Ethics has ruled that votes cast for unqualified candidates cannot be counted in deciding a winner.
Counting votes for unqualified candidates after the Nov. 8 election resulted in leaving vacant 30 of the 367 seats on the city's 36 ANCs, although qualified candidates were willing to fill most of the seats.
The ruling last week by Jeanus B. Parks Jr., cleared the way for seating Joe Isom, 32, a National Guard sergeant, as a member of ANC 6A on Capitol Hill.
The ruling did not automatically decide what to do about the other 29 vacancies. The full board of elections membership could decide at its next meeting Wednesday when it certifies the Isom election.
However, Parks said the ruling set a precedent under which votes cast for unqualified candidates in elections in 1980 and later will not be counted. Candidates usually are unqualified because they live outside their election districts or are not registered voters.
The new rules should eliminate a situation in which the outcome of some races remains uncertain four months after the election, depriving neighborhoods of representation and hobbling ANC operations.
The ANCs are an experiment in grassroots government, introduced when Congress granted the city limited home rule starting in 1975. They review municipal programs and projects that affect their sections of the city.
Isom, now the apparent Capitol Hill ANC winner, was a write-in candidate. On Nov. 8, he lost his election to George Gurley by a 5-to-2 vote.
Gurley lives in a district adjacent to that of Isom. Gurley's name was on the ballot there, and he won election, easily, but enough people wrote his name on ballots in Isom's district to make him the apparent winner of that seat, too.
Even though Gurley was unqualified for the second seat, the Board of Elections and Ethics ruled that it could not legally certify Isom, the runnerup in the voting, as the winner. The board made similar determinations for the 29 other races.
By a fluke, however, Isom was no throughout the city.
[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] tified inaccurately that he had won the election, and he went to the District Building Jan. 3 and was sworn in. However, the Board of Elections and Ethics refused to give him a certificate.
The situation led other members of his ANC, including Gurley, to ask the board to reconsider.
Parks conducted a hearing Jan. 28. In his formal decision. Parks ruled that in the future, names of all unqualified candidates must be striken before the final count that determines the winner of each seat. In the Isom case, Parks ruled that Gurley was not a legal candidate.