The D.C. City Council's decision Tuesday night to go ahead with scheduled Advisory Neighborhood Commission elections this year stunned city election officials who said yesterday the District could risk another snarled election if the balloting is held.
William H. Lewis, general counsel and acting executive director of the Board of Elections and Ethics, said the council action "was a complete surprise." The board has repeatedly urged that November's ANC elections be delayed a year because of administrative disarray and redistricting problems.
The surprise ANC vote came as the council continued to gingerly approach the politically sensitive elections issue. There are proposals to delay all elections, including the school board, to avert snafus that have botched several recent elections, and to consolidate balloting into even numbered years.
Several council members who on Tuesday supported holding the ANC elections this year, said the elections still might be put off if the council can agree on an overall election plan.
Lewis said yesterday that the ANC elections cannot be held until the board sorts out the confused boundaries that have been used since ANCs were established in 1975.
"We have to make the changes, we have to notify voters," Lewis said. "The people who are going to run for the various offices have . . .to know where they are running from."
There are currently 367 ANC members who each represent about 2,000 residents on neighborhood concerns. Redistricting is expected to reduce the number to about 315 members, but those boundaries have not be certified.
Lewis said the council's recommendation that the board use old boundaries instead of newly drawn districts would not solve the problem. He said those boundaries were not certified during the last ANC election in 1981 and that resulted in dozens of errors that could be repeated this year. "It only magnified the problem," Lewis said. Mark Plotkin, a Ward 3 commissioner, said his group is happy that the city is going to hold an election, but believes the new boundaries should be used. "If not, we'll be elected by people we won't be representing."
Ward 4 commissioner Wesley Garrett said his commission endorsed the delay in the elections. "This is nothing but gamesmanship. They elections officials know they are in no position to hold a decent election." Outgoing board chairman Albert J. Beveridge III, and his nominated successor, Edward Norton, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Lewis said yesterday that the elections staff has been struggling to halve the city's bloated registration list of more than 300,000. Lewis said the elections office does not have the employes, computer expertise or records to conduct the ANC elections in November.
In addition, Lewis said, some of the city's voting precincts contain as many as three or four ANC districts, which results in multiple ballots and voter confusion at the polls.