A proposal to delay the November 1983 school board elections and hold future school board balloting at the same time as other city elections drew fire yesterday from school board members and a key City Council committee chairman.
The plan, proposed by D.C. Director of Documents David A. Splitt as part of a broad effort to reform the city's troubled election system, would politicize the traditionally nonpartisan school board contests, several board members said yesterday.
D.C. City Council member William Spaulding (D-Ward 5), chairman of the committee that would have to approve Splitt's proposal, said he would go along with a suggestion to delay the city's Advisory Neighborhood Commission elections, but not the school board races.
"There's absolutely no need to postpone the election of school board members," Spaulding said yesterday. "If you have an election that's supposed to be nonpartisan, don't mix it up with a partisan election."
Splitt, hastily called in to supervise the city's most recent elections, called for the delay in school board voting along with a number of other changes because "major surgery" is necessary to clean up the city's problem-plagued elections.
Nonpartisan school board elections in the Maryland suburbs are held every two years and come at the same time as the election of other county, state or federal officials.
Board member Barbara Lett-Simmons (At-large) said any move to conduct school board elections in conjunction with other city races would "give us a huge leap forward into the kind of electoral corruption that can occur in partisan races. There would be nothing good about that."
Her objections were echoed by board members Eugene Kinlow, one of five board members whose terms expire next year, and Wanda Washburn.
"I think it is a bad idea that would be justified only if the city leaders were convinced that fair elections just could not be held next year," said Kinlow.
School Board member Linda W. Cropp (Ward 4), whose term expires next year, said: "I understand some of the problems the election's board may have, but I'm ready to roll in November. I don't have any strong feelings on this. I'm just prepared at this point to go on with the electoral process."
School board vice president Nathaniel Bush (Ward 7) said he had "no major objections" to Splitt's idea, but feared the possibility of school board races becoming "extremely political. If I have an objection it would be because of that."
But school board member R. David Hall (Ward 2) thought postponing the election would make the city look as if it were unable to handle the problem.
"It sets a dangerous precedent in a Democratic society to postpone an election," said Hall. "What they ought to do is put people on overtime to get the electoral system ready to produce."