A D.C. Board of Elections worker checks a ballot box while rival campaign workers look on
A D.C. Board of Elections worker checks a ballot box while rival campaign workers look on Credit: Will Sommer

Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May‘s re-election bid has seen the return of an old challenger and a video showing potentially illegal campaign work. Now there’s one more thing roiling the race: a group of teenage burglars.

In the daylight, the former Malcolm X Elementary School site on Alabama Ave. SE doubled over the weekend weekend as the ward’s early voting site. But late on Saturday night, the teens’ break-in sent supporters of May and challenger Trayon White scrambling to the school to see whether the ballot count had been affected.

An unidentified group broke into the former Congress Heights school, according to a Metropolitan Police Department review of security footage. The burglars stole at least one fire extinguisher and a packet of papers from the school, according to MPD Officer Sean Hickman. (Hickman didn’t know whether the papers were election-related).

As news of the burglary spread, both campaigns converged on the election site. Several White supporters were convinced that the break-in was a ruse intended to sway the election towards May, who is supported by Muriel Bowser. Adding to the confusion, two MPD cruisers crashed into one another in an unrelated incident on the same block. 

“It’s a hot mess,” White supporter Wanda Lockridge said as she waited outside the school. 

The heated scene recalled last year’s special election, when White’s supporters spilled out onto Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE to demand a recount after election night totals showed May slightly ahead. And it reminded LL of the aftermath of that race, when White and May supporters almost scuffled outside the building during a parade (White eventually lost by less than 100 votes). 

“It’s clear that we need a full-fledged investigation,” White said of the break-in.

Eventually, a D.C. Public Schools police officer took representatives from both campaigns, plus LL, into the polling place. With all the voting machines in place, a D.C. Board of Elections staffer confirmed that the seals were still on the ballot boxes. DCBOE spokeswoman Margarita Mikhaylova tells LL that the election equipment and vote totals weren’t affected by the break-in.

Still, how could a couple mischief-minded teens bust into a District polling place? A harried security guard, hounded by White supporters who wanted to know how he could have missed the break-in, had one theory. One door to the school building, he said, wasn’t locked.