The city's elections board can ban the use of gummed labels for people such as the illiterate or the disabled who want to cast write-in ballots, a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled yesterday.
Judge James A. Washington Jr. ruled that the board already has provisions for assisting illiterate and disabled residents who cannot write in their choices by hand and that the labels would disrupt the elections process.
The ruling was hailed by elections board chairman Edward Norton, who said he appreciated efforts "to balance the interests of all concerned" in the voting process.
Elections board attorney William Lewis said the board met after the judge's ruling and decided that voters can use a stamp bearing the name of a write-in candidate to cast a vote for that candidate. Such stamps may be distributed to voters if they are given out at least 40 feet from the polling place.
Lewis said that no stickers or labels are allowed.
The board also adopted a rule that requiring precinct captains to help the handicapped or disabled voters to vote.
Gerald M. Green, an attorney who represented a handful of voters and a committee trying to draft City Council member Jerry A. Moore Jr. for a write-in campaign, said he had not decided whether to appeal Washington's ruling.
"If this ruling stands, the electorate will have lost a valuable device that ensures the potential vitality of the electoral system," Green said.
Green filed the lawsuit in an attempt to prevent the elections board from enforcing a three-year-old rule barring the use of labels or stickers on ballots. Green said the labels would broaden voter participation and allow privacy for handicapped voters who require assistance when casting write-in votes.
Elections officials claimed that the labels might come lose, stick to other ballots, and force a lengthy and inaccurate hand count.
Washington also was concerned that labels could lead to widescale vote fraud because voters who are unable to read could not tell whether labels they received from campaign workers showed the real name of the candidate they intended to vote for.