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June 2 was unlike any other day in the District. Voters waited hours to cast their ballots—some, until after midnight—while protesters were met with pepper balls and chemical agents from law enforcement for yet another day. The government—be it, local or federal—made it extremely difficult for residents to exercise their rights and engage with the political system. Of course, not everything was within the government’s control. The threat of the deadly coronavirus added to the chaos.
City Paper visited vote centers in Ward 1, Ward 2, Ward 4, Ward 7, and Ward 8. We witnessed frustration over absentee ballots that never came and lines that stretched across several blocks. Residents waited to vote long past the 7 p.m. curfew that the mayor imposed due to days of political unrest. The polls closed at 8 p.m., but residents could be found at Emery Heights Community Center voting just after 1 a.m.
Officials acknowledged the primary went anything but smoothly. The problem was the DC Board of Elections couldn’t handle the surge of mail-in ballot requests and underestimated in-person Election Day turnout. DCBOE is an independent agency of the District government.
“The good news is I’m really, really glad we had so many people interested and willing to vote,” Michael Bennett, the chairman of the DC Board of Elections, told the Post. “The bad news is everyone decided to vote on the last day that vote centers are open and they decided to do it in person, and that just created an incredible logjam when you consider the fact we are in the middle of a pandemic.”
Lawmakers and individuals were livid about what they saw on Election Day.
“I am at Emery Rec in Ward 4, where there are more than 60 voters in line at 12:30 am during a pandemic supposedly under a curfew,” tweeted At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman. “I am going to ask how many voters requested absentee ballots. I am thankful for these voters and livid at the Board of Elections.”
“Many have responded to the protests calling for the protections of Black lives over the last week with an urge for civic participation at the voting booth. It is a travesty that in a city where the largest group of voters are Black, that the barrier to voting on Election Day was so high,” said Elizabeth Falcon, Executive Director, DC Jobs With Justice, in a written statement.
At a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Muriel Bowser called long lines and wait times “nothing short of failed execution.”
“The confidence of our electorate in how this independent board operates is paramount and I want to make sure I’m doing what is legally appropriate in getting a download from the board chair about exactly what happened and exactly what the plan is to fix it. And I can assure D.C. voters that we will have the appropriate action plan from the board and understand that from our level and I expect that the Council will require the same thing,” Bowser said.
When asked if “download” of the election could lead to resignations? “I could not tolerate a continued failed leadership or execution so I need to know more,” said Bowser. —Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? email@example.com)
CITY DESK LINKS, by Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
At today’s press conference, Bowser said Wednesday’s curfew begins at 11 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. And Police Chief Peter Newsham laid out arrests over the days of protests: 9 on Saturday, 92 on Sunday, 288 on Monday, and 19 on Tuesday. [Twitter]
As of June 2, D.C. reported three additional deaths related to COVID-19 and 130 new positive cases, bringing the total number to 473 and 9,016, respectively. DC Health reports that the city has reached three days of sustained decrease in community spread since moving to Phase 1. [EOM]
Why the mayor can’t tell the president to go screw himself. [WCP]
The Trump administration considered taking control of D.C. police to quell protesters. [Post]
LOOSE LIPS LINKS, by Mitch Ryals (tips? email@example.com)
With some mail-in ballots still uncounted, the Board of Elections will not release more election results for another week or 10 days. [Twitter]
YOUNG & HUNGRY LINKS, by Laura Hayes (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
Black business owners feel a full range of emotions during police brutality protests. [WCP]
Construction begins on the Whole Foods in the Walter Reed development. [Post]
2Amy’s won’t reopen for dine-in service in phase one or phase two. [Twitter]
ARTS LINKS, by Kayla Randall (tips? email@example.com)
The Kennedy Center says it will dim its lights for nine nights, “in honor of George Floyd, marking the final nine minutes of his life.” [Kennedy Center]
Emergent Seed is offering $500 microgrants to local writers and composers. [Washingtonian]
Here are comments D.C.-area theaters have made in response to the movement to end anti-black violence and racism. [DC Metro Theater Arts]
SPORTS LINKS, by Kelyn Soong (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
City Paper contributor Leonard Shapiro remembers Wes Unseld as a strong, silent leader who did most of his talking through his dominance on the court. Unseld, a Basketball Hall of Famer, died yesterday at 74. [WCP]
“Want to really stand for racial justice? Change your name,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez tweeted at the local NFL team. [Newsweek]
Black staffers at the Athletic discuss their own experiences encountering racism. [Athletic]
We’re bringing you the best things to watch, read, make, and do from the comfort of your home while social distancing.
Twenty years after City Paper published Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ 2000 story “Dropping the Bomb: An Oral History of Go-Go,” Coates will discuss go-go history with Howard professor and author Natalie Hopkinson at noon today.