A Geico insurance company official said yesterday that the firm would help the District government bring order to the city's chaotic voter registration and computer records. City officials are concerned that the disorder threatens to throw the September primary election into disarray.
"We don't know if we can do it, but we're going to try," said Geico spokesman Terry Baxter. "We think we have one of the top data processing programs in the city." Geico said the company would not be reimbursed for the service.
A City Council committee reported last month that as many as 50,000 voters might have trouble casting ballots in the Sept. 14 primary because of missing, inaccurate or incomplete registration records. Similar problems were encountered in last November's elections.
Geico vice president August Alegi said yesterday that the company would assign its chief data processing officer and possibly as many as four or five other employes to the project, which they expect to finish by May 15.
"Geico has 1.5 million policyholders so the firm certainly can handle 280,000 voters," said Matthew Watson, special consultant to the Government Operations Committee that is investigating the operations of the Board of Elections and Ethics.
By law, the board of elections is required to tell candidates for mayor and the City Council in May how many petition signatures they need to have their names placed on the ballot.
These figures are based on the number of registered voters, whose total is uncertain but is believed to be about 280,000.
There are more than 125 computer tapes stored in the elections office at the District Building, each with a different number of registered voters, according to Watson.
Geico hopes to consolidate these tapes and sort out more than 1 million registration cards filed in the elections office while the regular staff of about 12 elections employes concentrates on new registrations.
Alegi said he would meet Thursday with elections board Chairman Albert J. Beveridge III to work out details of untangling the project.
D.C. Mayor Marion Barry praised Geico's offer, and declared that "everyone who wants to vote should be able to vote Sept. 14."
Council member William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5), chairman of the government operations committee, said during a council session that a corrected list of voters should be available at least 45 days before the September election to give people whose names are not listed time to correct the omission.
The council yesterday approved a bill that would bring the city's income-tax laws into closer conformity with federal laws governing deductions and tax-exempt savings plans.
The council also passed a measure that would allow the mayor to reduce the water bills of nonprofit, federally subsidized housing, and approved an "independence bill" that would sever most of the council's administrative ties with the executive branch.
The council also joined other groups around the nation in petitioning the secretary of the Navy to rename the nuclear submarine, Corpus Christi, which translated from the Latin means "Body of Christ." These groups contend that the name is not appropriate for a warship.