As if the District needed another election this year, the city's 323 advisory neighborhood commission seats come up for grabs in November.

That means that people who want to run for these posts, many of which have served as launching pads for political heavyweights over the years, have just three weeks to throw their hats in the ring. To do so, they simply must pick up a petition at the D.C. Board of Elections and get 25 registered voters to sign it.

The League of Women Voters called the ANCs a "unique experiment in neighborhood democracy" when they were created 14 years ago to give neighborhoods more influence over government decisions.

Since then, the power of the city's 37 ANCs has "grown tremendously," said Jim Zais, of the Office of the General Assistant to the Mayor, which oversees the ANCs. Although their role is advisory, commissioners have successfully initiated liquor license moratoriums, installed traffic lights, changed bus routes and organized neighborhood crime patrols. They also have become key players in zoning and preservation battles.

When city boards deliberate issues affecting a neighborhood, they are required by D.C. law to give "great weight" to the positions of the local ANC. As a result, developers and other entrepreneurs regularly troop before ANCs to woo them and residents mount massive lobbying efforts to influence commission votes.

Most ANCs hold public meetings once a month, and many rent office space and hire a part-time staff member to keep minutes, type correspondence with the city and answer constituent phone calls.

To pay for this, the city parceled out to the ANCs more than $1.7 million last year. The money is distributed according to population, which varies widely because ANC boundaries were drawn to keep neighborhood borders intact.

The Kalorama ANC, which represents 2,800 residents, for example, has only two commissioners and an annual budget of $5,000. The Shaw/Downtown ANC is the city's largest commission, representing 58,000 residents with 16 commissioners and a budget of $58,000. There are supposed to be 323 commissioners -- one for every 2,000 people -- but every year there are seats without candidates.

When that happens, voters can write in their own choices, and the winners are sometimes people who don't want the job at all, said Leona Agouridis, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Board of Elections.

"Some people write in their husband's name," she said. "So we call the husbands and tell them, 'You have been elected an ANC commissioner.' "

Last year, no one ran for commissioner in 43 neighborhoods. However, there were 102 neighborhoods with two or more candidates. This year, local ANC politics is so heated in some neighborhoods that some residents have begun campaigns to oust every current ANC commissioner.

To run, petitions with the signatures of 25 registered voters from a designated neighborhood must be turned in to the Board of Elections by 5 p.m. Sept. 7. To qualify, candidates must be registered voters and have lived in the neighborhood for at least 60 days before filing the nomination petition. City and federal workers are eligible to run. Petitions, lists of eligible voters and commission districts are available in Room 2 of the District Building weekdays and Saturdays until Sept. 1.

............ 323 ANC Offices Available ..............

.................... Number of ...... Offices With No

Election Year ..... Candidates..... Filed Candidates

1979 ................. 272 ................. 135

1981 ................. 301 ................. 124

1984 ................. 433 .................. 41

1986 ................. 381 .................. 45

1988 ................. 402 .................. 43

Source: D.C. Board of Elections