IF THERE is one more way to brutalize a precious but precarious democratic process in the District of Columbia, you'd better believe that the D.C. Council will find it--and vote for it. In an evening of utter legislative disarray this week, the members managed to approve the maximum possible number of wrong measures to convert an already terrible 1983 elections mess into the makings of a total scandal.
As it now stands, the city--still without on-the- job new elections board members, still without an executive director or the technical expertise that is critical to preparations--will proceed with half- baked plans, out-of-date districting maps and who- knows-what for voter rolls into some, but not all, of the elections that are supposed to be held this year.
First, a synopsis of the mess until now: Mayor Barry took forever to fill two vacancies on the three- member board. William Spaulding, after leading his council committee into legislative hibernation for a prolonged period, got himself and the members together long enough to reject Mr. Barry's nominees without so much as a hearing. Now the mayor has sent nominations to the committee again--where last word is that some action may happen in late May.
Meanwhile, Council Chairman Dave Clarke did get members to redraw the boundaries for advisory neighborhood commission elections. But little good that did: in its first awful surprise this week, the council not only defeated a wise proposal to delay these ANC elections until they might have a chance of being done right, but also agreed to use the old, out-of-date boundaries because--here we come full circle again-- elections board officials said they cannot certify the new boundaries in time for ANC elections this year.
There's more. It's no better. The council took no action on school board elections, which leaves them on the schedule, ready or not. But the council did agree to one delay--of what could be the easiest of all the elections to go ahead and hold: for three people to lobby Congress on behalf of statehood, regardless of whether the city has its statehood proposal cleaned up enough for Congress not to hoot it back down the Hill.
Add to all this a dash of petty politicking and a dose of irresponsibility, and you have the D.C. Council's prescription for an electoral disaster that could well produce more than mere hoots and howls from Congress. There is still an opportunity for the council to reconsider its latest follies and plan seriously for elections when the city can handle them. Otherwise, if catastrophe comes, remember that the council invited it.