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Council committee already knocked down idea of unaffiliated voters

Nikita R Stewart

The D.C. Council Committee on Government Operations and the Environment knocked down amendments that would have allowed unaffiliated voters to register with a party and vote in the Sept. 14 election at the last minute.

This year's primary will usher in several new laws -- from same-day registration to early voting to no-excuse absentee voting -- that have loosened restrictions on voters.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's campaign has interpreted the new laws to mean that voters listing "no party" when registering can register the same day with a party and vote in the primary.

Though the Fenty campaign says the general counsel of the Board of Elections and Ethics agreed with the interpretation in July, the elections board ruled Aug. 12 that unaffiliated voters would not be able to switch parties at the last minute and vote in the primary.

The board is holding a special meeting Wednesday to reconsider its decision at the request of the Fenty campaign, which is arguing that such voters have cast ballots in past primaries and that the board's Aug. 12 ruling gave little time for such voters to choose a party by an Aug. 16 deadline.

Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), chairman of the Government Operations Committee, said the council had no intention of creating an "open primary" and had already voted down such amendments to the omnibus bill that established the new elections laws.

Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have allowed a voter registered as an independent, or no party, to vote in the primary election of a political party if the party permitted.

He also offered an amendment that would have allowed a "qualified elector" to change party affiliation after the 30th day preceding an election and on the same day as an election.

"That wasn't meant to be," Cheh said of allowing unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in the primary, "nor was it an open door for an open primary."

She said registering as "no party ... in effect, is a declaration that you are not in a party."

"Your commitment has to be made ahead of time. You can't be a floater. That was not part of this legislation," she said. "That's reaffirmed by the amendments that were voted down."

By Nikita R Stewart  |  August 24, 2010; 1:54 PM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election , Mayor Fenty , Nikita Stewart , Vincent C. Gray  
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I do recall those amendments now. It was in the context of a member of another party or no party seeking the ability to switch parties at the last minute to vote in the democratic primary in the District then switch back to their own party and vote in the general election. Catania did present those amendments and the council did vote them down well before campaign season got underway. That was the right decision.

Could you imagine the Log Cabin Republicans all switching to the democratic party to vote for what they conceived to be the weakest Democratic contender to their candidate in the democratic primaries, then switching back to the GOP to vote for their candidate in the general election. That is election engineering.

No party is not an affiliation, it is not independent, democrat or republican. It is a purposeful decision to send a message that one is not politically tied to any group. Why should they be allowed to vote in any one groups primary? They could always field their own candidate and gather the support to get them on the ballot and vote them in in the General Election.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | August 24, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Cheh. If you are registered as "no party" then you don't belong to a political party so why should you get to vote in a party's primary? She makes good sense.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | August 24, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

This is nothing more than Bush 2000 2.0! We need the Feds need to step in.

Posted by: thelildiva4u | August 24, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

The Council made the right decision in only allowing voters of a party affilation to cast votes in their primaries. This attempt by mayor fenty to allow independents to be included now---because he is losing with the majority of voters in his party is an affront to the democrats in DC. Hopefully, the election board will follow the law because a misinterpretation by the fenty appointees will create anarchy in the streets. Also,this request by the mayor should put the U.S. Dept. of Justice on notice that they should deploy federal marshals to provide protection at polling locations for voters in wards 4,5,7 and 8, and to prevent the stealing of the election by ron moten and sinclair skinner.

Posted by: bill121 | August 25, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

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