Representatives of various political groups appearing before a D.C. City Council committee yesterday gave lukewarm and partial support to a proposal to consolidate off-year school board elections with even-year City Council and presidential elections.
The proposal, part of a package of election changes backed by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, would reduce the number of election dates, increase voter turnout and save the city up to $360,000 in every four-year election cycle, according to its supporters.
But the idea drew mixed reviews in a hearing before the City Council's government operations committee yesterday. Barry J. Campbell, president of the Ward Four Democratic Club, said his group opposed the change since elimination of the off-year, non-partisan school board elections would "greatly politicize nonpartisan elections" and encourage candidates in those races to run on partisan slates.
But the D.C. League of Women Voters and the D.C. Republican Committee both supported the idea.
The D.C. Democratic State Committee, representing Democrats as a whole in this heavily Democratic city, has taken no official position on the issue.
Elections board chairman Albert J. Beveridge III told the committee, "Consolidating school board elections with the November general elections would, we believe, substantially increase voter turnout."
He added, "We sincerely believe that we conduct too many elections in the District of Columbia."
Beveridge also spent a good deal of time fielding committee members' questions about the city's initiative process triggered by controversy over a recently proposed referendum on educational tax credits in the city.
One of the election board's proposed changes would allow the board to rule on initiative measures -- such as whether they are suitable subjects for the ballot -- before the measure's supporters begin collecting the necessary signatures.
Currently, such rulings can come only after the signatures have been turned in. Beveridge said, "This means that the entire process is rushed, that the board is not able to give proper consideration to the matter and that a proponent of an initiative may have expended a great deal of unnecessary work by collecting signatures for initiatives which are not the proper subject matter.