Activists seeking to ban corporate contributions to District political campaigns have acknowledged it will be difficult to get their proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot and are now seeking to have voters take up the measure in a future citywide election.
In a Friday court filing, the initiative’s backers asked for an additional four weeks to review ballot petitions they had submitted last month — petitions that were later judged inadequate by the D.C. Board of Elections.
The activists, organized as D.C. Public Trust, went to court late last month arguing that the board miscounted the signatures they submitted; the board has responded by saying the activists simply did not understand their counting notation systems.
Last week, a D.C. Superior Court judge gave the parties until a hearing set for Thursday to prepare arguments on whether the question — known as Initiative 70 — should go on the ballot.
Now, after meeting with elections officials, the activists are asking for more time to do a signature-by-signature review. In the filing, they argue that “an extension of four weeks ... will be sufficient to determine the scope and nature of any issues remaining to be resolved.”
Four more weeks, however, would mean the issue is resolved well after November’s ballots have been printed and other election preparations are underway.
“The Plaintiffs understand that by extending the schedule ... that there is no possible outcome by which Initiative Measure #70 may appear on the November 2012 general election ballot,” the backers write.
In other words, they have given up on getting the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot and are now hoping to get the question before voters at the next opportunity. That could be as soon as next spring — if Phil Mendelson (D), as expected, wins his bid to retain the D.C. Council chairmanship, setting up a special election to fill his at-large seat.
D.C. Public Trust and the election board will appear before Judge Laura A. Cordero this afternoon for a hearing on the request for an extension.
UPDATE, 2:30 P.M.: Cordero granted the four-week extension after a brief hearing, the Post’s Tim Craig reports — meaning Initiative 70 will definitely not appear on the November ballot.
Now D.C. Public Trust will have to work with the Board of Elections though Oct. 2 to validate enough signatures among those they already submitted to qualify for the ballot. They cannot collect any additional signatures, and if they are unable to validate a sufficient number — 23,298, including five percent of registered voters in five of eight wards — the activists will have to start from scratch.
The delay highlights a strategic misstep by the activists: In order to make November ballot deadlines, they submitted their ballot petitions in early July. They could have continued collecting signatures for another two months, but that would have meant missing this year’s ballot. In their defense, it was less clear in early July that a spring special election to replace Mendelson would be so likely.