The full D.C. Court of Appeals yesterday refused to hear an argument to stop new voting procedures in today's general election, but three of court's nine judges warned that the procedures could cause the election to be "tainted."
On Saturday, a three-judge panel from the same court ruled that the city could legally implement the new procedures, which would allow people whose names do not appear on precinct voter rolls--and who do not have registration cards -- to cast regular ballots if they can produce identification for precinct workers and will sign affidavits that they are properly registered.
The ruling Saturday was in response to a suit brought by W. Ronald Evans, Ward 5 Republican candidate for D.C. City Council. Yesterday Evans asked the full Court of Appeals to hear the case, but the court declined by a 6-3 vote.
The majority did not elaborate on the decision.
However, the dissenters, John W. Kern III, Frank Q. Nebeker and John A. Terry, said in a written opinion that voters whose names do not appear on precinct voting lists today should vote special ballots that would then be counted only after elections officials had certified that they were cast by properly registered voters.
"This last minute tinkering permits ballots of questionable validity to be cast and counted without recall,"said Kern, who wrote the opinion on behalf of the other two.
Elections officials have said that the new procedures, which were developed in the last two weeks, are necessary because the city's voter rolls are not in adequate shape to guarantee that all legitimate voters will find their names on the lists when they arrive at the polls today. Elections officials announced the changes in response to the Sept. 14 primary, when 20,000 properly registered voters were forced to cast special ballots.
But Kern said yesterday that "The real issue is not whether an emergency exists . . . .The real issue is whether the democratic process should, in the name of that emergency, be tainted by the use of a method that may result in the irretrievable counting of invalid ballots."
The three dissenting judges said the majority was evading the court's responsibility and by doing so was a "rubber stamp in the administration of laws in this city."
Evans maintains that the new procedures might open the election to fraud. He has argued that everyone not on the official voter list should cast a special ballot.
Elections officials have said they will check each of the affidavits after the election and take steps to prosecute anyone who has tried to vote fraudulently.