The troubled D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has proposed a package of 17 legislative changes to cure some of its longstanding problems. The proposals include reregistration of all city voters and switching to even-year elections, which would postpone until 1984 school board and advisory neighborhood commission balloting scheduled this year.
The board's proposals, some of which have been made before but which have gone nowhere in the City Council, also include increased penalties for violations of campaign finance regulations, limitations on write-in votes for primaries and repeal of a cumbersome random sampling requirement for candidate nominating petitions.
"During the past year, the general public, the board and, we believe, the council have become increasingly aware that the election laws of the District . . . are difficult to administer, confusingly written and disorganized," board chairman Albert J. Beveridge III said in a statement.
The board's suggestion that all elections be postponed this year goes farther than legislation introduced recently by council member William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5), chairman of the government operations committee, which oversees the city's elections process.
Spaulding's legislation recommends only that the election of 367 ANC members be postponed because of acknowledged difficulties in conducting the low-turnout elections. City officials, contending with their own disorganized records, say the confusion over the boundaries of the individual commissions would make the elections hopelessly tangled in many cases.
The issue of postponing some or all of the elections, including scheduled balloting to choose two "senators" and a "representative" to lobby Congress on statehood for the city, is expected to be resolved early by the council.
Council Chairman David A. Clarke, who supports even-numbered-year elections, is expected to introduce soon legislation that would have the effect of postponing all elections until 1984, among other changes similar to the board's proposal.
The move to address the problem-plagued elections system in the District comes after several years of fouled-up elections, culminating this year when more than 20,000 voters had to cast special, challenged ballots in the September primaries. Only a handful of voters turned out to be improperly registered.
David. A. Splitt, Barry's cabinet-level director of the Office of Documents who served temporarily as executive director of the elections office to get the city through the November elections, proposed in December a major overhaul of the city's election apparatus.
"The recommendations of . . . Splitt represent the first comprehensive review of the board's operations by an individual who has had overall management responsibility for the board's operations," Beveridge said. "The board is in agreement with many of Mr. Splitt's recommendations."
The board's reregistration proposal would use as a base all voters who cast ballots in the September or November elections. Officials said that would give the city a base of about 140,000 registered voters compared with the more than 370,000 now listed on electoral roles.
Officials believe many names on the current lists are duplications, or are of deceased persons or persons who have moved from the city.
The board also urged the city to move its operations from its cramped quarters in the overcrowded District Building to space where its computers can be housed in a clean, temperature-controlled environment.
Under the board's legislative proposals, persons who violate the city's campaign finance laws would be subject to fines up to $5,000--10 times the limit now allowed by law.
"We believe that conditions of political life in the District are such that the sum of $500 the present limit does not realistically serve as a deterrent to either flagrant or intentional acts in violation of the campaign finance laws," Beveridge wrote.
The board also suggested the council clear up the legislative confusion between the board and the Office of Campaign Finance. Beveridge said the office, now an arm of the board, should be made an independent agency or have its functions placed clearly under the board.
The board's proposals also come at a time when two members are serving in lame-duck positions and are not expected to be reappointed. Beveridge's term expired at the end of 1982, and Virginia Moye's term expired more than a year ago. Both have been serving extended terms while waiting for Barry to make new appointments.
One of the first duties of the new board would be to hire a permanent executive director. Since November, the elections office has been run by William Lewis, the board's general counsel.