The long-standing vacancy in the chairmanship of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics is not expected to have much effect on the administration of the May 1 special election.Yet for the past five months, the board has been without a permanent head, and the local chapter of the League of Women Voters is beginning to worry.
"There is obviously a problem when there are only two members and it's very difficult to get a quorum," said the league's new president, Ruth Dixon. "When one person's absent, there's a one-person board.
"There's no way we're going to get our (full Congressional representation) amendment ratified until we get our elections working."
And without a chairman, Dixon said, the board is lacking in leadership and direction and slow in implementing badly needed plans to overhaul the city's election operations.
Dixon said she has been told that the city's recurrent and well-publicized election day snafus are being voiced around the country as one reason why some people are reluctant to support full voting representation in Congress for the District.
Shari B. Kharasch stepped down as board chairman in December, and Mayor Marion Barry has yet to appoint a successor. A few weeks before Kharasch left, Winfred R. Mundle, the board's general counsel and virtual chief of staff, left too.
"Things are indisarray," said former league president Ellen Swanson. "That's our impression. They really are struggling to get some direction because the two present board members have not been too good at making timely decisions."
Board member James L. Denson said the board is receiving interim legal assistance but has not yet chosen a new general counsel because that should not be done before the new chairman is selected.
At one time, ther were strong indications that Phil Ogilvie, who had been Barry's principal elections board watcher during the campaign, would be given a job as, in effect, the director of a reorganized elections board staff. Ogilvie has since stopped waiting, however, and has taken a job with the Smithsonian Institution.
Denson said having only two members on the board is an "inconvenience," but so far, he said, it has not created any "hassles." Denson said he is glad Barry is not rushing into a decision. But, Denson added, "It is such a sensitive and important job, all three board members ought to be sitting."
League representatives said they discussed the situation with Barry about six weeks ago. At that time, they said, the mayor told them that other appointments had a higher priority than that of a new election board chairman.
Meanwhile, Dixon said she is hoping that there are no other embarassing voting irregularities uncovered in the city. "Every time we do something wrong here it makes headlines all over the country," she said.
When Mayor Marion Barry's City Slicker's softball team took the field last week against a White House team, the logical double-play combination for the city was a city hall analyst's dream: Rogers-to-Donaldson-to-Barry.
With city administrator Elijah Rogers at shortstop, general assistant and mayoral alter-ego Ivanhoe Donaldson at second base and 'Hizzoner' holding down first, the Slickers had a double-play trio that symbolically represented the way some observers believe key decisions are passed up the line in the Barry administration.
The Slickers went down 12-8 to the White House, and the District Building's double-play combination was no homegrown version of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance, the legendary two-out combination that made history for the Chicago Cubs in the early 1900s.
The one chance the Slickers had for a double play failed, but third baseman Alan Grip blamed that on a bad call by an umpire from the city's recreation department.
Sam Jordan, the cigar-chewing chief community trobleshooter for the mayor, was the Slickers' coach. Some who sat on the bench said the toughest decision Jordan had to make all day was removing second baseman Donaldson from the game Sunday afternoon and still having a job on Monday morning.
Barry got three hits and drove in two runs, suggesting that if his political career wanes, he may be able to play baseball.
Apparently, the thought already has occurred to certain people.
It was just a little over a year ago that Douglas E. Moore said-wrongly as it turned out-that he expected Barry to be the choice of the regular Democrats as Moore's opponent in the City Council chairman race. "I still expect Marion Barry," Moore said then, "to become the designated hitter."