The deadline for filing to run in the November Advisory Neighborhood Commission elections is one day away. But by early this week, more than two-thirds of the District's 373 ANC seats still had no candidates.
By press time Tuesday, only 105 ANC seats had candidates who had completed the necessary paperwork to have their names on the ballot, according to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics. Only 87 seats had more than one qualifying candidate.
Altogether, 458 people had picked up petitions from the District Building but most had not turned them in, election officials said.
The deadline is 5 p.m. tomorrow.
"We've been beating the bushes trying to encourage people to run," said board spokeswoman Leona Aguoridis.
In the last ANC election in 1988, only about 40 seats had no candidates on the ballot, she said.
ANC candidates must be registered voters and must collect a petition with the signatures of 25 other registered voters in their neighborhood. Each commissioner represents about 2,000 people.
Areas with the lowest numbers of declared candidates this year are mainly in Southeast and Northeast. In Ward 8, which has 30 ANC seats, only 15 people had picked up petitions by last Tuesday. In Ward 7, with 42 seats, only seven people had picked up petitions.
City officials said they believe the mayoral and D.C. delegate primaries as well as Mayor Marion Barry's drug and perjury trial diverted attention from ANC elections. But they said they remain hopeful that more candidates will surface before the deadline.
"You don't need a lot of signatures to file, so a lot of people will wait until the last minute," said D.C. Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), who heads the council committee that oversees the ANCs and who is now running for D.C. delegate.
Although their role is advisory, the ANCs, established 15 years ago under home rule, have successfully initiated liquor license moratoriums, traffic light installations, bus route changes and neighborhood crime patrols. They also have become key players in zoning and preservation battles, because city officials are by law required to give their positions "great weight."
Some longtime commissioners said they think some people will wait until tomorrow to turn in their paperwork. "I think some people procrastinate until the last minute," said Commissioner George Gurley, of River Terrace in Northeast. He turned in his petition on Monday.
But board officials say that is their worst fear. "If they all come on Friday, it's going to be a mess," Aguoridis said.