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D.C.'s September primary likely to be its last

Last Tuesday, the District of Columbia held its 19th September primary election. It may well have been the last.

According to the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (aka MOVE), passed by Congress last year, seven weeks just isn't long enough to certify the primary results, print general-election ballots, send them out to voters abroad and allow the now-requisite 45 days to make the round trip in time for the official count. The Post's Tim Craig detailed the issues at stake in March.

Thus the District -- along with nine states, including Maryland -- are being forced to move their primaries up. This year, the city has gotten special dispensation from the Justice Department to hold the primary as usual, although overseas voters will have seven days longer than regular absentee voters to get their ballots mailed.

Any move would seriously disrupt the biennial rhythms of District politicking -- yard signs sprouting in spring, signature-gathering in June, the Palisades Parade on the Fourth of July, the long grind of block parties and street festivals under the hot August sun.

And, because there appears to be some hesitancy to hold the primary in the summer months, the primary seems likely to be moved back to June. That, in this Democratically dominated town, raises the prospect of six-month lame ducks. In other words, it may become a regular occurrence for mayors and council members to serve one-eighth of their terms after the voters have decided that they no longer want them there.

There's another hazard to good governance: Harry Thomas Jr., the Ward 5 D.C. Council member, points out that elected officials currently take full advantage of the council's two-month summer recess to do their campaigning. With elections in June, council incumbents will have to somehow juggle budget season and reelection campaigns. "It's that much harder," Thomas says. "You won't have your recess time any more."

But Mary Cheh, the D.C. Council member who chairs the committee overseeing elections, says that something must be done. "We're going to have to have a hearing or maybe even a series of hearings about what to do about this," she said. "We have to comply. That's the bottom line."

By Mike DeBonis  | September 21, 2010; 1:33 PM ET
Categories:  DCision 2010, The District  
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A June primary would be nice

Posted by: DCJUSTICE | September 21, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

What difference does it make, there's no democracy in the District anyway? They will continue to disenfranchise the independent voters like me. Why not skip the primary and just run an open, non-partisan election like they do in many parts of country. What are the DC un-Democratic Party weenies afraid of anyway? Worried their relatives in Maryland won't be able to get into the District to cast their ballots on time like they did in this bogus primary?
Please Congress, retake control of the District.

Posted by: blankspace | September 21, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

what's the downside to june primarys

Posted by: JeroRobson1 | September 21, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

No problem having a June Primary but let's change the participation rules into a very simple system:
For each race, the top two candidates in the open primary, regardless of party or non-party affiliation, proceed to the November elections if one does not receive over 50%. This allows lots of time for the leading candidates to discuss issues.

Posted by: johnklenert | September 22, 2010 7:45 AM | Report abuse

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