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I am writing in response to your item “Taking Aim at the Board of Elections,” which appeared in the Loose Lips (11/20) column. Stated simply, the board believes that no person should be able to make a mockery of the electoral process. However, your article presents an inaccurate picture of the board’s approach to voter-roll maintenance and how a D.C. resident can update his voter registration and vote.
Specifically, the City Paper inaccurately states that “three incidents show how nonexistent and inactive voters can remain on the D.C. rolls indefinitely, even though they have not cast a ballot for years.” This agency has worked vigorously within the law to maintain an accurate voter roll. The board must remain in compliance with federal and local law and cannot impose any more restrictive measures than permitted to keep the voter roll “clean.” For example, both “Hugh G. Rection” and “Packey M. Lamont’ were removed from the board’s list of registered voters in March of this year as a result of the board’s address verification process. As you are aware, there is a citizen of the District of Columbia who has apparently changed his name to “Jesus Christ” and who last voted on Nov. 8, 1988. Pursuant to the board’s “Election Day Change of Address” (EDCA) procedure, available to D.C. voters, Mr. Christ could have changed his address at the time of voting in any election subsequent to the election of Nov. 8, 1988. Accordingly, there is no reason why Mr. Christ would not have been allowed to vote in the last 11 elections.
Unfortunately, in a free society there are always those who will seek to take advantage of our system to the detriment of other citizens. While we are certain that other jurisdictions encounter this problem (and it is our genuine belief that we do not have a significant problem with persons improperly listed on the voter roll), the possible existence of even one such improperly registered voter demands our attention.
For 13 years, the board’s former executive director, Emmett H. Fremaux Jr., brought excellent skills and commendable leadership qualities to the agency. The board’s measures used to keep the voter roll accurate were developed by Mr. Fremaux. Our current executive director, Alice Miller, who has been serving in that capacity since Mr. Fremaux’s departure in August of 1996, has continued to utilize those measures directed at voter-roll maintenance to maintain the integrity of the electoral process. Moreover, since Ms. Miller became the executive director, the board has incorporated additional methods of removing unqualified individuals from the voter roll through a data-exchange program with the Department of Motor Vehicles. In addition, an investigation earlier this year led to the removal of dual registrants from Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, Maryland, and Virginia. These efforts continue to result in the proper removal of names from the voter roll on an ongoing basis.
In regard to the board’s decision to abide by the congressional ban on the board’s release of the results of Initiative Measure No. 59, Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998, we believe the board made the right decision. The matter is properly before a federal court to decide. While the board strongly believes it should have the right to count the votes in an initiative measure that has been properly initiated by one of the District’s citizens, it is inappropriate for an appointed board to engage in acts of political defiance. Ever mindful of its primary role of ensuring a fair and honest election, the board is reluctant to enter into a political dispute with Congress. The board must have direction from the court with respect to its duties under the law relating to further processing of Initiative Measure No. 59. The board’s posture is to remain neutral and impartial on matters such as this. We stand by our decision.
Chairman, Board of Elections and Ethics