Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced his run for the presidency in D.C. He held one of his first fundraisers at a packed D.C. beer house. But for two weeks, speculation has been swirling about whether any resident in the nation’s capital might actually get to cast a vote for Sanders.
So to dispel with the rumors: Any D.C. resident who feels the Bern, will be able to vote the Bern.
That’s not to say it won’t be a little complicated. And some D.C. Democratic party officials still have some explaining to do. Here’s the story:
Somewhere in the course of raising $140 million for his White House bid, Sanders chose to use a tiny fraction of his haul to skip the hassle of collecting 1,000 signatures to get on the D.C. ballot.
The self-described Democratic socialist instead went the capitalist route. He took advantage of a rule allowing any candidate running for president to buy a spot on the District primary ballot with a $2,500 donation to the D.C. Democratic State Committee.
The Sanders campaign submitted a check at 3 p.m. on March 16th, the deadline to do so, according to signatures on a party document.
March 16th was also the day for the party to certify its list of candidates for the June 14 primary to the D.C. Board of Elections.
But the party did not forward Sanders’s name until it sent an e-mail at 1:31 p.m. the next day, March 17th.
A D.C. Democratic activist challenged Sanders’s status as a legitimate candidate because of the delay and that has forced the Board of Elections to take up the matter later this week, according to D.C. Democratic Party Chair Anita Bonds.
In an interview, Bonds, who is also an at-large D.C. Council member, called the delay a non-issue.
Party rules required her to accept checks until 7 p.m. on the 16th, she said, but the board of elections closed at 4:45 p.m.
In each of the past four elections, Bonds said, the names were submitted the next day with no problem.
If the D.C. elections board (which has had problems of its own) is not willing to certify Sanders, Bonds has another solution to make sure Sanders makes the ballot.
Bonds said she will ask the D.C. Council to pass emergency legislation on Tuesday to make clear that the party has 24 hours from when it stops accepting checks to submit the names to the elections board.
Three D.C. Council members called the situation embarrassing and sloppy, but said they would be willing to make sure all candidates who had submitted their information in good faith before the deadline make the ballot.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson echoed that sentiment.
“I think the intent would be to make sure the process treats candidates fairly,” Mendelson said.
In a statement, Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said he was not worried.
“We did what the D.C. law requires in order to get Bernie in the ballot, and we are confident he will be on the ballot,” Briggs said.
For her part, Hillary Clinton submitted over 1,000 signatures, and the insurance policy of a $2,500 donation to the party.
But Clinton’s name is not on the ballot yet either. The elections board won’t certify the ballot for the June 14 ballot contest for about another month.
John Wagner contributed to this report.