The District of Columbia's official voter list for next week's elections contains 328,000 names -- nearly 100,000 more than four years ago and about 28,000 of which are probably duplications or the names of people who have died or moved from the city, according to city elections officials.
Over the last few months, elections officials have been trying to correct a faulty computerized master voting list used in the 1981 school board election that an audit determined had failed to include or had inaccurately recorded an estimated 50,000 names.
Thousands of voters, some of whom said they had been registered here for as long as a decade, ran into difficulty trying to cast their ballots last year because of the list.
In their efforts to ensure that the same thing does not happen this time, elections officials have sent out new voter registration cards to an estimated 89,000 residents -- just about everyone who had registered to vote over the past several years or whose name was in the central card file but not on the master voting list.
"Before we had too few names, now we have too many," Teddy Filosofos, executive director of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, said last week.
Thousands of voter registration cards for questionable voters are floating around town, elections officials acknowledge, and during next week's primary, voters will not be asked to show other identification before they are allowed to cast their ballots.
Under those circumstances, Filosofos said, "there is no way in hell" for the city to take steps to prevent a person from voting more than once, or using someone else's name or card to vote in the primary.
In addition, Filosofos said, the current law does not give him the right to purge anyone from the voter roles unless that person has not voted here in more than four years, or unless the Office of Vital Statistics informs the elections board that the person has died.
Elections board chairman Albert J. Beveridge III said he does not believe that confusion over the list will throw the election results into question.
"If a candidate won by 1,000 votes it would be a problem, but if the election was won by 25,000 it would not be serious," Beveridge said. (In 1978, 1,500 votes divided the winner and runner up in the Democratic primary for mayor.)
Beveridge said that while the new figures might appear to reflect a dramatic increase over the 231,000 names on the 1978 voters list, elections officials believed even then that that number was too low.
Earlier this year, the elections board revised its figures upward to about 269,000, and in May, computer surveys of voter rolls by Geico, a local insurance company, discovered about 298,000 names. Since then, the elections board has continued to register new voters while trying to straighten out the list, thus arriving at the new estimates of registrants and actual eligible voters, Beveridge said.
Of the nearly 90,000 cards sent out so far to registered but not listed voters, about 4,000 have been returned to the elections board because those listed on the cards no longer lived at the addresses, Filosofos said.
Some residents have reported receiving voter cards for people who moved from the District as long as 10 years ago. Other residents have received more than one voter identification card.
In reference to the names of deceased persons whose names may still be on the voting rolls, Filosofos said that when he was an elections administrator in Erie County, N.Y., he was regularly informed of those who had died. That practice is not followed by the D.C. Office of Vital Statistics.
Sue Panzer, president of the League of Women Voters, which is closely monitoring election procedures, said the league would check into the problem of the excess names on the voter rolls.
The large updated list already is causing the board some problems. Last week Ruth Dixon, a former League of Women Voters president and candidate for City Council in Ward 3, accused the board of showing favoritism toward incumbents after she learned that three council members running for reelection had received updated lists.
The challengers were given the same list used in the 1981 election, which not only lacked some voters' names but also listed others in the wrong precincts or at the wrong address.
Initially all candidates, including incumbents, got the same voter lists -- those from the 1981 election. However, council member Polly Shackleton noted that her own name was not on the list and then complained to Filosofos, who subsequently gave her and the other incumbents updated lists.
Filosofos said he was not trying to show favoritism, but merely responding to candidates who had complained. He said any candidate who asked for the updated list would be given one.
Filosofos said last week that since taking over May 3, he and other officials have found about 7,000 voter registration applications "just laying around the office" and that another 5,000 cards requesting change of address or party affiliation had never been placed into the computer system.
He said it would probably be another two years before most of the problems are corrected and the city could be expected to have a smoothly functioning elections operation.