The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics plans to permit anyone who presents a registration card to cast a regular ballot in the Nov. 2 general election -- even if the name does not appear on the official voter rolls at the polling place.
David A. Splitt, the board's acting executive director, said yesterday that the board plans to adopt this procedure to avoid the problems that occurred in the Sept. 14 primary. About 20,000 legitimately registered voters were forced to cast special challenged ballots in the primary because their names did not appear on precinct voter rolls.
Some of the voters were turned away by poll workers or left precincts in frustration without voting.
"This is a fairly substantial departure from any procedure we have used in any previous election," said Albert J. Beveridge III, elections board chairman. "It is in direct response to the relatively large number of special ballots that were cast in the primary," Beveridge said, and the fact that only about 2,000 of those ballots were disqualified.
Beveridge and the two other elections board members expressed support yesterday for the new procedure that would allow would-be voters to show their registration cards.
He said the board would meet Wednesday to formally discuss this change, as well as another proposal by Splitt that would allow voters whose names are not on the precinct lists and have no registration card to sign an affidavit and then vote.
Beveridge said he is not certain of the legality of "a person merely showing up and signing an affidavit to vote" and would ask the board's general counsel for an opinion on the matter.
Elections officials said yesterday that thousands of voter cards had been sent out for persons who are moved, dead or listed more than once. But they said they do not anticipate any instances of voter fraud.
"You can always finds a remote possibility of a person permitting a criminal act," said William H. Lewis, the board's general counsel. "I'm not saying there aren't any problems. I'm saying I'm not foreseeing any."
Lewis said that if voters have a registration card, it is proof enough that they are registered. These cards are sent to residents after they register and contain the voter's name, address, ward, precinct number and polling place.
Splitt said yesterday that the new regulations should be adopted to make the November election "voter friendly."
Elections officials said yesterday the city now has a master voter list of 369,568 voters, even though they estimate that there are no more than 300,000 actual voters in the city. In the primary, the list included 328,000.
The additional names are those of the 20,000 who cast challenged ballots Sept. 14, persons who registered after the cutoff registration date for the primary or others whose names were in the board's card file but not on the old master list, elections officials said.
"I'm sure a significant number on the list , especially in excess of 300,000 are probably people who are deceased, have moved or are duplicates," Splitt said. But he said, there is no time to purge the rolls before the general election.
"Our problem is making sure people who are supposed to be on the lists are on there," Splitt said.
Splitt said elections workers have placed on the lists the names of all but about 1,000 persons of the 20,000 legitimate voters who were forced erroneously to cast special ballots in the primary.
One problem that might occur, Splitt said, is that some names may still be spelled incorrectly or in the wrong precinct on the new lists. "In putting the names on that fast, there's a possibility of mistakes," Splitt said.
He said as of today, voter lists will be placed in local libraries so that registered voters can check to be sure their name is there. If it is missing, or incorrectly entered, the voter can fill out a card at the library correcting the information. Elections workers will pick up the cards each day, Splitt said, and try to correct the information before election day.