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Board of Elections Struggling to Mount Its Defense

In an effort to reassure voters that the Nov. 4 presidential election will be nothing like the District's voter debacle in September, members of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics have launched an unofficial campaign to restore the public's confidence in the office.

Board of Elections chairman Erroll Arthur and the panel's Executive Director Sylvia Goldsberry-Adams took most of the fire Friday during a D.C. Council hearing on the Sept. 9 primary where phantom votes generated a lot of confusion . While board members tried to assure the council members that things are in control at the board, Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) wanted to know why the body was using outdated equipment and behaving in a reactionary mode.

Cheh grilled the board's general counsel, Kenneth McGhie, who had little specifics to offer. He testified that he was out of town on Election Day and that he's been on leave for the last two weeks.

"What, as board members, do you think your role is?" asked Cheh, who was following up on reports that the board had been unavailable to answer questions and address concerns raised by candidates, residents and lawmakers.

"Make no mistake, we are committed to improving this process, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that [the problems of the Sept. 9 primary] will not occur again," said Arthur, who emphasized after the hearing that the board has a long track record of error-free elections.

Lenora Cole, a longtime member of the board who is now retiring, reminded everyone in the council hearing that they are volunteers. "We as a board are moving in a direction to ensure that we are proactive. We work long hours. We have been volunteering our time five or six days a week to move forward."

Hamil R. Harris

By Marcia Davis  |  October 6, 2008; 4:15 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Council  
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Shouldn't the counsel for the board of elections be around on election day? There are only two elections in even years (three in presidential years) and none in odd years, plus the occasional special election. It doesn't seem like an unreasonable expectation that people associated with the board should be available on those days.

Posted by: KCinDC | October 7, 2008 12:16 AM | Report abuse

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