Elections in the District of Columbia are never really complete until the City Council holds a hearing to review the failures of the election system.

"After every election the council holds a hearing and nothing is changed," said Ruth Dixon, a former League of Women Voters president who has been active in election issues for several years. Dixon lost a bid last year to unseat council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3).

The latest go-round, a hearing to consider a long list of election reforms proposed after last fall's balloting, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Feb. 18 in the District Building council chambers.

Frustrated voters and others who want to testify can sign up by calling the Committee on Government Operations at 724-8088 before the Feb. 17 deadline.

The major item on the agenda is a proposal to delay all of this year's elections while the city's elections mess is straightened out.

At stake are school board elections; balloting for 367 Advisory Neighborhood Commission seats; any citizen initiatives, such as the move to save historic Rhodes Tavern, that may be placed on the ballot, and voting for two "senators" and one "representative" to become paid lobbyists for statehood.

The Committee on Government Operations also will hear testimony on whether the city should reform its error-ridden voter registration lists by building a new list from scratch or from the names of those who cast ballots last fall.

Other topics to be discussed include proposals to get the city out of the business of running intra-party elections for local political organizations and plans to limit write-in votes during primaries.

Another proposal under consideration is to increase civil penalties for violations of the city's campaign finance law.

Council observers say new committee members John Ray (D-At Large) and Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), both of whom are up for reelection next year, may help get long-delayed election reforms moving. The committee is headed by William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5), its chairman for the past four years.

Any effort to reform the elections system will have to wait as well on changes in the three-member D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

The board has been without a permanent executive director since October when Teddy Filosofos quit in disgust. Officials are still waiting for Mayor Marion Barry to appoint two new members to the board so it can hire a new executive director.

Former council chairman Sterling Tucker has been asked privately by Barry to replace outgoing board chairman Albert J. Beveridge III, who has complained he is tired of the continuing headaches of running the board. Barry has yet to make his formal selections.

Citizens who miss the Feb. 18 hearing can sign up for a community meeting of the Government Operations Committee that will be held at 10 a.m. Feb. 26 at Gallaudet College, 800 Florida Ave. NE, in the Ely Center Auditorium. The deadline to sign up for the witness list is noon, Feb. 25.

CONFIRMATION CONFUSION--Should the City Council get the chance to confirm Barry's appointments of top officials who are running the government?

The council says yes and the mayor says no. Gregory Mize, new general counsel for the legislative branch, has written a lengthy report on the confirmation question, to which Barry's office so far has not responded.

Whatever the interpretation of the complex laws governing confirmations, council officials acknowledge there are no sanctions in the law, even if the council is correct. Still undecided is whether the council is concerned enough about its oversight prerogatives to establish sanctions.

The confused situation now has Barry submitting routine nominations for lower-level department heads while such top officials as Ivanhoe Donaldson, deputy mayor for economic development, and Alphonse G. Hill, deputy mayor for finance, have assumed major policy-making roles in city government without council confirmation.