TUESDAY’S SPECIAL election for the Ward 8 seat on the D.C. State Board of Education has attracted little notice, so the worry is it will see extremely low turnout. We urge voters to prove the predictions wrong by casting their ballots. At the same time, we have to wonder if there might have been a better way to conduct this election.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the contest between civic activist Philip Pannell, whom we have endorsed, and high school teacher Tierra Jolly. They are vying to fill the unexpired term of Trayon White, who resigned from the board in March to take a job in the city’s parks department.
The election, as Washington City Paper reported, will cost an estimated $300,000, mainly because city law requires that all precincts be opened. The D.C. Board of Elections, to its credit, recognized how wasteful this would be, particularly considering a general election will be held in four months. In a letter to D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) in April, it suggested legislation that would have allowed the election to be delayed until November or to be conducted by mail.
Neither suggestion was acted upon. Apparently Mr. Barry, whom the council deferred to on this matter since it takes place in his ward, didn’t want the seat to go unfilled for an extended period of time. We agree that vacancies should be filled as quickly as possible, and Ward 8, often seen as the forgotten ward, should not go unrepresented.
It’s unfortunate, though, that more thought wasn’t given to an election by mail. Under this plan, estimated by election officials to cost $162,000, all registered voters would receive a ballot by mail, plus there would be the option of a vote center for same-day registration and voting. Voting by mail is popular in states that allow it and, in some cases, has increased participation. The D.C. Council missed an opportunity to try something new while saving taxpayer money.
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