The proposed change to the primary schedule, first reported by WRC-TV’s Tom Sherwood, would be the second made by the council in the past two years. Prior to 2012, the District held its local primaries in early September.
The change to April was made in 2011 to comply with a federal law requiring local governments to schedule sufficient time between primary and general elections to allow overseas voters, including members of the military, to cast absentee ballots. April was chosen rather than a later month, according to council report, because lawmakers wanted to allow for combined local and presidential primaries, to avoid the issue of summer vacationers leaving town, and to avoid conflicts with council budget season, which hits full swing in late April/early May.
But the shift to April has come to be seen by many candidates and officials as too drastic, particularly after the debut of the new schedule this year.
“I don’t think anybody liked it, and for multiple reasons,” Mendelson said. “Forcing everyone to campaign during winter is difficult.” Also, he said, “It is not good practice to have lame ducks in office for eight months.”
As for the fairness of having the council’s members — as many as eight of whom could be seeking re-election next year — vote on moving an election less than a year away and with several candidates already declared, Mendelson maintained the change has nothing to do with incumbency protection. Rather, he said, the earlier date “disfavors challengers.”
If anyone disagrees or has any other objection, he added, they will be heard as the bill moves through the normal legislative course: “If there’s some problem I can’t foresee, it will come out in the hearing.”