With a smooth election safely behind them, D.C. elections officials are now turning to two other substantial challenges: altering the voter lists to reflect new Advisory Neighborhood Commission boundaries, and purging the rolls of tens of thousands of names of voters who have moved or died.
Of the two tasks, that of changing ANC designations is of particular concern, according to elections board chairman Albert J. Beveridge III, because the next ANC election is only a year away and the City Council has not yet moved on deciding the boundary changes for the 365 individual ANC districts.
The council by law must alter the ANC boundaries to reflect changing population, and once that is done, the elections board must enter into a computer the revised ANC designations for each of the 370,000 voters. That process is expected to take about five months, according to elections officials.
Last year the elections board tried to add ANC designations to the voter list and in the process inadvertently lost thousands of names from the rolls. The council is supposed to appoint a citizen commission to determine the new boundaries, but the commission has not been selected.
City ANC elections, which are held every two years, generally have been marred by confusion, and with a major realignment in the offing, "the potential for problems is worse now," Beveridge said.
Complicating those problems, Beveridge said, is the fact that the elections board is operating with a master voter list that includes between 70,000 and 125,000 people who are believed to have died or moved from the city. "I think we have proven we can conduct a general election and I believe we can conduct a primary election. It is an open question, given the state of our rolls, whether we can conduct a smooth ANC election," Beveridge said.
Beveridge said he intends this week to give the council's government operations committee, which oversees election law, a set of legislative proposals for purging the rolls of the invalid names. Beveridge declined to specify the proposals yesterday, but has said in the past that the board should have the authority to do a mail check of all currently registered voters to determine which of them still live in the city.
The chairman of the council committee, William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5), said yesterday that he would "certainly consider any of the proposals" the elections board makes, but does have some reservations about making a mail check because that might depend too much on citizen cooperation in returning information to officials.
The city's voter rolls contain a large number of invalid names because the elections board has not followed proven administrative procedures, such as mail checks and obtaining regular reports of the citizens who die, that other cities use successfully to keep voter rolls up to date.
Last Tuesday's election ran without any of the confusion that marked the Sept. 14 primary, when some 20,000 properly registered voters were forced to cast challenged ballots because their names were missing from precinct rolls.
Beveridge said yesterday that the elections board staff worked double shifts to place those names back on the rolls, and that the election ran more smoothly this time because the board instituted emergency procedures allowing most voters whose names were not on the rolls to cast regular ballots if they had a voter card or if they signed an affidavit.
Virginia P. Moye, an elections board member, said yesterday that the board does not plan to use these emergency procedures in the future.
Meanwhile yesterday, elections workers continued to count the names of voters who cast regular ballots in last Tuesday's election by showing their voter registration card because their names did not appear on precinct rolls. They would not release a partial count.
An additional 2,678 voters whose names were not on the rolls cast regular ballots by signing affidavits swearing that they are registered, and elections workers continued to check those affidavits to ensure that none of them is fraudulent. They have yet to find one, according to the board's counsel.
Elections officials said yesterday that they had disqualified the ballots of 27 of the 542 persons who cast special challenged ballots because their names were not on the lists and they had no voter card. Those persons may appeal the disqualification of their vote today at the elections board.