A campaign aide to D.C. Council member Yvette M. Alexander testified Thursday that he had signed ballot nominating petitions as a circulator when he did not himself circulate the petitions, a violation of District rules.
But the aide said those petitions were discarded before they could be submitted to the Board of Elections and Ethics, which is considering whether to oust Alexander (D-Ward 7) from the April 3 primary ballot.
Under city regulations, a candidate’s nominating petitions must be circulated only by eligible registered voters who attest that they personally witness each signature they collect. A D.C. resident alleges that her campaign did not follow those rules, hiring paid workers to gather signatures only to have Alexander aides sign them as the circulators.
Two campaign aides, Derek Ford and George Browne, signed the vast majority of Alexander’s petitions as circulators. The resident, Dawn Matthews, suggested that they instead signed petitions that other workers had circulated, making them ineligible to be counted toward the 250-signature minimum needed to qualify for the ballot.
Ford testified that the campaign hired field workers who collected petition signatures but that those petitions were never submitted to the board.
David W. Wilmot, a lawyer representing the Alexander campaign, said he advised the campaign before any petitions were submitted that it could not include signatures that the official circulators did not collect themselves.
“I was very specific about that,” he said.
Any noncompliant petitions, Ford said, were subsequently discarded.
The board’s chairman, Deborah K. Nichols, asked Ford how the board could be assured that none of the bad petitions were submitted. Wilmot answered for him: “The only way you’re going to know is, he’s under oath, he’s testifying, and it’s the truth,” he said.
Matthews — who appeared at the hearing with Kemry Hughes, campaign manager for Alexander challenger Tom Brown — also questioned whether it was possible for the circulators to collect as many signatures as they did as quickly as they did — in once case, 198 in one day for Browne; 300 in one day for Ford.
Hughes suggested that in his experience, those kinds of numbers are unrealistic, but Browne disagreed, testifying that he is retired and in some cases collected signatures from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Hughes also said he spoke to several signers of Alexander petitions, who said that neither Browne nor Ford circulated the petitions they signed.
Matthews did not offer witnesses to verify the claims. She did offer the statement of her fiance, who said the person who circulated his signature was “not an elderly gentleman.” The circulator who signed the petition it appeared on was Browne, who is 63.
Nichols called the allegations a “very serious matter” and asked the Alexander campaign to provide records related to the paid field workers, hired through the Lancer Group, as well as campaign finance records. She asked Matthews to provide sworn affidavits from witnesses backing up her claims.
“This is a very serious process,” Nichols said. “This is access to our ballot.”
The board must rule on the challenge by Monday.