An effort to ban corporate contributions to D.C. political campaigns has fallen short after the D.C. Board of Elections ruled Wednesday that activists did not collect enough valid signatures to put the measure on the
Nov. 2 Nov. 6 general election ballot.
The activists, organized as the D.C. Committee to Restore Public Trust, turned in more than 30,000 signatures last month, but the board invalidated about 9,000 of those, leaving them short of the 23,298 valid signatures required to appear on the ballot.
The signatures were tossed out for a variety of reasons — belonging to unregistered voters, duplicating other valid signatures, missing addresses, having addresses that don’t match voter records, and illegibility. All told, the effort came up 1,726 signatures short.
Bryan Weaver, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner and D.C. Council candidate who is leading the campaign, said he and others will review the board’s disqualification decisions in the coming days. The backers have 10 business days in which to challenge the board’s determination in D.C. Superior Court.
Weaver said he was focused on the approximately 3,100 signers that the board said were registered to vote but listed a different address on ballot petitions than appears on voter rolls.
“There’s definitely an element of voter intent,” he said. “There are 3,100 people in the District who wanted this but moved or put down the wrong address. These people are in the system, they’re registered voters, but their addresses are different from what’s on file.”
Convincing a judge that the board’s long-standing practice of disqualifying signatures based on faulty addresses is illegal stands to be an uphill battle. But there’s another thorny legal issue that could bail out the activists.
The 180-day petition circulation period for the measure continues though mid-September. But in order to meet board deadlines to appear on the
Nov. 2 Nov. 6 ballot, the activists turned in signatures well before that.
There is the possibility that more signatures could be collected before the end of the circulation period, allowing the measure to be placed on the ballot for a later citywide election — perhaps a special election to fill the at-large council seat belonging to Phil Mendelson (D), who is running for council chairman in November against what appears to be token opposition.
Weaver says there is some dispute over whether he and his allies can continue collecting signatures. “One board attorney said you could; one board attorney says you can’t,” he said. “That’s something we’re looking at.”
UPDATE, 2:05 P.M.: I don’t know how to read a calendar. The general election is Nov. 6, not Nov. 2.
UPDATE, 2:15 P.M.: As far as the Board of Elections is concerned, the signature push will have to start from scratch. Rudolph McGann, a board attorney, said the organizers cannot resubmit signatures already gathered. That’s per city regulations, which say, “The signatures submitted in support of a rejected initiative or referendum petition shall not be resubmitted for filing in order to qualify the measure for an election ballot.”
Here is the board’s report on the ballot petitions: