IS THERE A curse on self-government in the

District--or is this city's consistent inability to run its elections simply a way of life? We reject both propositions, but with the passing of each month, you do wonder who in city hall is serious about cleaning up this mess, and by what light-year. And before anyone points down the hall of the District Building to the favorite target for blame--the elections board--this time the fault lies in a certain few other offices upstairs.

Start with Mayor Barry, who broke no speed records moving to fill two vacancies on the three- member elections board. Then continue on to the D.C. Council, where William Spaulding and the committee with jurisdiction in these matters have been fiddling for months with proposals to improve registration and change election schedules, and have just rejected the two nominees that Mr. Barry finally did submit for the board.

This brings you back to square one, which is where things were last fall--only worse:

With a lame-duck board, nothing has happened to fill another key slot, that of executive director, which has been vacant ever since Teddy Filosofos fled after the September primary fiasco. Without an executive director, it's hard to fill yet another critical position: a professional to head up the data-processing operations. And so on down the line: the staff still needs restructuring, if it ever gets a boss.

It is all very well, then, to insist on holding school board, statehood and advisory neighborhood elections on time this fall--so long as nobody cares who's in charge, who's eligible to vote, what the redistricted precincts should look like or how well the results will be tabulated.

In November, we suggested that rules providing for reregistration be approved immediately; that the elections board and the council get cracking on the necessary redrawing of ANC boundaries; and that the mayor fill the top jobs. Today--heading toward the middle of March--none of the above has happened.

This isn't a mess anymore. It's a scandal, jeopardizing the hard-won voting rights of the people who live here.