Mayoral candidates exchanged barbs over the validity of Washington's voter registration lists yesterday, while city elections officials insisted that everything would go smoothly in next Tuesday's primary election.
At the same time, Mayor Marion Barry's reelection campaign committee -- which filed a financial disclosure report Tuesday that failed to include contributions for the 13 days ending Sept. 2, as the law requires--said it may file an amended report later this week showing that Barry has raised more than $1 million in campaign funds.
Democratic candidate Patricia Roberts Harris, who is seeking a delay in the election because of registration foulups that she says might encourage voter fraud, told a group of businessmen that the city is "worse than a banana republic."
Barry and officials of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics said that Harris has exaggerated the problem and that there are sufficient safeguards against fraud.
"It's a red herring," Barry said of Harris' argument. "Obviously, when one is drowning politically, you reach for every life raft or straw that you can . . . I'm confident everyone who wants to vote who is registered will vote and there will be enough checks and balances to prevent fraud ."
Elections Board Chairman Albert J. Beveridge III and Teddy Filosofos, the board's executive director, assured the City Council committtee on government operations there would be little confusion over the voter rolls next week, the votes would be tallied promptly and efficiently and that there would be a sufficient number of ballots at the polls.
"We feel that we have adequately prepared for the primary election in the best, most efficient manner possible," Filosofos told the committee.
While all of this was going on, employes of the R. H. Terrell Junior High School, a polling place in Northwest Washington, discovered about 200 voter registration cards that had mistakenly been delivered there, instead of to the homes of the individual voters listed on the cards.
The post office made two other similar mistakes, according to an elections board official, sending batches of registration cards to polling places in other parts of the city. Also, several voters have complained of receiving two or three copies of their own voter registration cards, as well as cards in the names of other people.
The city's list of registered voters contains about 328,000 names, including nearly 30,000 new voters added since July; an additional 30,000 who were listed in the board's card file but not in their master computerized voter list that is used by precinct poll workers; and 14,000 voters who changed their address.
About 75,000 registration cards were sent to those voters this summer. About 7,000 cards were returned to the election board because the voters no longer lived at the addresses listed. Election officials say they cannot be certain how many other voters who were sent cards still reside in the city or even are alive.
Officials say there probably are no more than 300,000 actual voters in the city.
In response to questions about the validity of the voter list, Beveridge said the board intends to do a mail check of all voters now on the lists after the November election.
On the financial front, council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), who missed Tuesday's deadline for filing campaign contributions, said she filed a report late yesterday showing that she raised about $74,000. Woodrow Boggs, Jarvis' campaign manager, said Jarvis will start radio advertising today on four stations.
The office of campaign finance said it will review Barry's latest report on political contributions, which failed to include contributions during the 13-day period that ended Sept. 2, as required by the city's campaign finance law.
Barry campaign manager Ivanhoe Donaldson said the campaign finance office had misinformed Ann Kinney, the campaign treasurer, when the report was due and what period it should have covered.
Donaldson said yesterday an amended report covering the missing contributions may be filed as early as Friday, and it will show that the Barry campaign has raised over $1 million dollars for this primary election, a record amount for a District of Columbia election.
The acting director of the office of campaign finance, Lindell Tinsley, was not available yesterday for comment on what instructions his office had given Barry campaign officials. Tinsley, who was appointed acting director of the office by Barry, has been on vacation for two weeks, and assistants in the campaign finance office said they do not know when he will return.
Donaldson said yesterday that a letter to Tinsley explaining the error was included with the campaign fiance report. When an office of campaign worker tried to open the letter Tuesday he was told by Barry's campaign aide, Kinney, not to open it and to leave it for Tinsley.
A separate election-day issue was resolved yesterday by the board of elections, when it ruled that candidates would not be allowed to assign campaign workers to monitor the official tallying of the ballots.
The board agreed to let six "nonpartisan" representatives be present in the official tallying room.
The board was responding to a complaint from City Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-at-Large), a candidate for reelection, who said the board was violating its own rules by decreeing that candidates and their workers would have to watch the ballot counting on closed circuit television. The board still intends to televise the count on closed circuit.
Meanwhile, Harris was endorsed by a committee of 69 Washington-area ministers, including the Rev. A. Knighton Stanley of the Peoples Congregational Church; Rev. William Revely of Mt. Gilead; and the Rev. E.C. Smith, pastor emeritus of Metropolitan Baptist Church.
In a harsh attack on Barry, Revely claimed that the mayor was attempting to win the election with "money, trickery and shenanigans." He and Smith also criticized the mayor for seeking political support from gays -- although Harris has done the same thing.
"It's wrong to support gay rights to the point that you lower your standards," Revely told a group of about 70 people who attended the endorsement ceremony. He did not elaborate.
Harris later said she disagreed with Revely's and Smith's views on gays.
"I seek the gay community's support," she said. "I will oppose anybody who will discriminate against anybody on the basis of sexual preference."
Also yesterday, mayoral candidate John Ray called for an independent investigation of conditions in the city jail and at the Lorton prison complex, claiming there is widespread use of drugs by inmates, incidents of sexual assaults, and considerable destruction of city property.
Ray yesterday picked up the endorsement of several correctional officers who said they represented about 400 employes of the D.C. Department of Corrections.