At his 1979 confirmation hearings, D.C. elections board chairman Albert J. Beveridge III had high hopes "that the citizens will be so pleased with and proud of their board's actions, that those who are unconcerned about and disenchanted with the elections process will be motivated to become more actively involved in the political happenings of this city."
Today as he nears his last election, Beveridge, 47, presides over a city elections system that by some accounts is one of the worst in the nation. Far from enchanting voters, Beveridge's system has frustrated and enraged thousands of them.
Beveridge, 47, a tall thin man with a penchant for using multi-syllable words, came east from a prominent Indianapolis family to graduate from Princeton cum laude and from Harvard University Law School.
He arrived in Washington 20 years ago as an lawyer specializing in tax, securities, and environmental law. He served on the presidential campaign staff of Robert Kennedy in 1968.
In May 1979, Mayor Marion Barry recommended Beveridge for a seat on the board that oversees the city's perennially troubled elections process. He became chairman when the former chairman, James L. Denson, resigned. Beveridge was then head of a law firm of 25 attorneys, which is now known as Beveridge and Diamond. He said he took the job on the elections board "because I like the city and I wanted to do something for it."
Under Beveridge, the problems at the board continued. He maintains that because the problems are so longstanding, they will take a long time to correct.
But, he says, progress has been made. He notes that for the first time the District has a master citywide voting list, albeit imperfect, instead of 137 separate precinct lists -- a circumstance that meant workers had to look up names as many as 137 times. The board, he adds, is now using a more sophisticated computer system that he thinks should clear up some of the record-keeping problems of the past.
Beveridge, who lives in the affluent Wesley Heights section of the city, takes a a lot of kidding from the other attorneys in his firm about the tribulations at the board, says his law partner, Henry Diamond.
"He takes it with a good deal of grace," Diamond said. "He understands it's a thankless job. It wasn't a nice plum, which he could have had."
In December, when his board term expires, Beveridge says he will gladly step down.