D.C. City Council Chairman David A. Clarke yesterday proposed a sweeping overhaul of the District's troubled elections system that would postpone this year's school board and Advisory Neighborhood Commission balloting until 1984.
Clarke, saying the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics needs "a shake-up," also called for a partial reregistration of voters and elimination of odd-year elections of all school board and ANC elections.
"The public has become frustrated with a process that never seems to work," said Clarke, whose broad list of changes is the first official move to reform the city's election machinery after several years of snarled elections.
Under the bill, the city would start a new voter list based on balloting last September and November. Officials say there are 370,000 names on the rolls now and that probably a third are duplicates or persons who have moved or died.
Clarke's bill would streamline the city's current patchwork of election laws. It also would prohibit write-in votes during party primaries and allow the board to validate citizen initiative petitions automatically unless challenged by opponents.
Albert J. Beveridge III, the outgoing chairman of the elections board, has proposed a similar package of changes.
Both bills will be discussed at a public hearing on election reform Friday at the District Building.
Clarke, who said the elections staff is "demoralized," criticized Mayor Marion Barry for failing to nominate new board members to replace Beveridge, whose term expired last December, and Virginia Moye, whose term expired more than a year ago. Both are serving until Barry names new members.
Barry has asked former D.C. Council Chairman Sterling Tucker to become board chairman, but has not submitted his nomination to the council.
The election measures are expected to touch off several weeks of maneuvering as City Council members gauge the impact of possible changes on their own political careers. Sharing campaign time with school board members and ANC members could increase the pressure on council candidates to respond directly to school and neighborhood issues.
Clarke said eliminating odd-year elections would save the city about $300,000 every two years and would increase voter turnout for the school board races, which generally falls significantly below mayoral and council balloting.
On a related matter, Clarke said he thought it unlikely that the council would approve a special election to pick a new school board member for Ward 1. School board members, who have been unable to agree on a person to replace Frank Smith, have suggested they may ask the council to allow the special election.
Clarke's bill, which included cosponsors Jerry A. Moore (R-At Large) and Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), also would move next year's presidential primary in the District to the second Tuesday in May -- the same as Maryland -- to help create a regional presidential primary campaign and attract more attention from presidential candidates.