Four candidates for D.C. Council will be disqualified from their races if they are unable to withstand challenges to their filing petitions, the D.C. Board of Elections said yesterday.

After a daylong conference with the candidates, election officials ruled that the number of invalid signatures on the petitions was large enough to bring the candidates' totals below the minimum required to run, spokeswoman Leona Agouridis said.

The candidates, three of whom are seeking at-large seats, are slated to meet with the three-member election board tomorrow to argue for reinstatement of some of the signatures, which are needed to qualify for the Nov. 6 general election.

If the issue is not resolved in the 9:30 a.m. hearing, it could end up in court and disrupt the schedule for printing ballots, Agouridis said.

In documents presented to election officials last week, the petitions of Jim Harvey, R. Rochelle Burns, Ray Browne and Suzanne Finney were challenged on several counts, including the validity of signatures and addresses and the signers' eligibility to vote. The challenges were made by private citizens.

Harvey, Burns and Browne, all of whom are independents, are running for at-large council seats. Finney, also an independent, is challenging Ward 3 council member Jim Nathanson.

The board requires 3,000 signatures from registered voters to qualify as an at-large candidate. It requires 500 signatures to qualify for a ward race.

Harvey submitted 3,361 signatures. In one of two challenges filed against him, the board staff recommended that 647 petition signatures be disqualified, leaving Harvey below the limit at 2,714. In the second challenge, the board recommended that 725 be disqualified, leaving him at 2,636, Agouridis said.

Browne submitted 3,490 signatures. The board staff recommended that 540 be ruled invalid, leaving Browne with only 2,950 signatures, Agouridis said.

Burns turned in 3,328 signatures and the board reported that 460 were invalid, leaving 2,868, Agouridis said.

Finney submitted 638, but the board recommended disqualification of 144, leaving her six signatures below the required minimum, Agouridis said.

Harvey dismissed the challenges as an 11th-hour attempt by rivals in the at-large race to eliminate him.

"We just view this as a desperate act by desperate candidates who don't have any appeal," he said. He did not identify the candidates.

Rick Messick, an attorney for Harvey and Burns, said he intends to argue for reinstatement of some signatures. Messick said he will ask the board to reconsider its rule requiring addresses on petitions to coincide with those listed with elections board.

In many cases, people move and fail to notify the board, Messick said.

"To interpret it that way would make it far more difficult to get signatures from people who move a lot," said Messick.

Harvey said that if the board fails to rule in his favor, he will appeal the matter to the D.C. Court of Appeals. Although the court would likely expedite the hearing, it could push the board close to its deadline for printing ballots. Agouridis said federal election law requires printing of absentee ballots 45 days before the election.