D.C. voters are facing a potential election crisis next year -- one that our elected representatives have overlooked or ignored for years, perhaps because it favors their incumbency. The District's lack of a runoff provision for primary and general elections means that if 11 candidates were to run for mayor in the Democratic primary, one could win with slightly more than 10 percent of the vote. The winner of the primary in the District historically has been a shoo-in to win the general election.

Next year we will elect a new mayor and probably several members of the D.C. Council. The city's leadership is up for grabs. This makes it all the more important that we have a law that requires a runoff between the top two (or three) candidates if none receives 50 percent of the vote.

The District does not have to reinvent the wheel; it need only survey other jurisdictions and adopt the law that appears most fair.

In 2006 we might have five or more candidates running for mayor. Do we really want the leader of our city to win the Democratic primary, which is, in reality, the election, with 25 to 30 percent -- or even less -- of the vote?

I was involved in Marion Barry's first mayoral campaign when he narrowly defeated Sterling Tucker and Walter Washington. Barry won only slightly more than one-third of the vote, but that was enough to sweep him into office.

The D.C. Council and the mayor should move without further delay to enact a runoff law so that the city's elected officials will have the mandate they need to lead. Good government should take precedence over the incumbents' personal interest.

MAX N. BERRY

Washington

The writer is the former chair of the committees to elect Tony Williams, John Wilson, Dave Clarke, Marion Barry and Walter Fauntroy, and is a former elected member of the D.C. State Committee.