The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics proposed rules yesterday that would allow officials to supply handicapped and disabled voters with rubber stamps to cast votes for some write-in candidates and to allow the candidates themselves to provide stamps for other voters.
The emergency rules, which would be in effect for the November general election, would last for 120 days. They were developed in response to a lawsuit filed by District voters and a committee to draft City Council member Jerry A. Moore Jr. for a write-in candidacy. The suit sought to prevent the board from enforcing a rule that prohibits the use of preprinted stickers or gummed labels.
Under the proposed rules, in order for the board to provide the stamps for a candidate, the candidate would have to have a petition signed by 50 disabled or handicapped voters in a citywide race, 25 such voters in a ward race or five in a race for an Advisory Neighborhood Commission post. These petitions would have to be filed 25 days before the election.
When the board announced the rules yesterday during a special meeting, attorneys representing candidates on the November ballot for two at-large council seats objected immediately.
Robert Richards, representing Carol Schwartz, who defeated Moore in the September GOP primary, said that by supplying stamps to some voters the board would be in effect placing the name of a write-in candidate on the ballot.
The elections board objects to the use of stickers and labels, saying that they would gum up election machinery. Moore's supporters, on the other hand, have argued that the use of stickers would make voting for a write-in candidate easier for handicapped residents -- and make election easier for those running a write-in campaign. The board plans to present its proposed rules today when D.C. Superior Court Judge James A. Washington Jr. continues a hearing on the lawsuit by Moore's supporters. Whether the rules are actually implemented will depend in part on the judge's reaction.
Under the board's rules, elections officials could supply the imprinted rubber stamps only to voters who are handicapped, disabled or illiterate.
But the rules would allow write-in candidates and their supporters to distribute imprinted stamps to any voters, provided that the distribution takes place at least 50 feet from the polling place. Voters could then use the stamps in the voting booth.
At the polling place, persons who wish to use the board-supplied stamps would have to certify on a form that they are disabled or handicapped. Under the proposed rules, poll workers would then supply the voter with stamps for authorized write-in candidates, plus one blank stamp "to allow secrecy in the voter's use of the stamps."
The elections board has also proposed several rules that would require that each precinct have persons trained to help voters punch, read or record their votes on ballots.