District Must Collect Racial Data on Voters

By Christopher Williams

Southwest Voice Editor-in-Chief

Southwest Voice recently called for the District of Columbia to generate a semi-annual report on voter turnout rates by race. That article was positively received and widely circulated. In a follow-up, this paper seeks to raise concerns about additional issues about the integrity of elections in the District. We call upon the District to immediately study these issues and satisfactorily address these concerns in the current legislative session.

Order of Candidates on the Ballot - We first became suspicious when At-Large member Christina Henderson appeared at the top of the ballot in her race in 2020 to replace her former boss, David Grosso. Councilmember Henderson had served as Mr. Grosso's Deputy Chief of Staff. The field for the at-Large race was crowded with 23 candidates vying for one of two seats reserved for independent, Republican, or third-party candidates. Robert White, an incumbent, won the other seat. We have no evidence to prove that the DC Board of Elections managed the order of candidates that would contradict their public statement that candidates were randomly placed on the ballot through a public lottery. However, we find it too coincidental that the former senior staff of the Councilmember whose seat was open was listed first. This paper spoke with a major candidate in that race who was surprised by Ms. Henderson's win. We ask that the Council immediately investigate this issue and employ an impartial body to interview Board of Elections current and former staff. This position should not be construed to in any way to implicate Ms. Henderson.

Some have claimed that Robert White should have been listed before Trayon White alphabetically, but these claims are not consistent with the law. "The candidate whose name is pulled first from the container shall have his or her name appear first on the ballot; the candidate whose name is pulled second shall have his or her name placed second on the ballot; and this order shall continue until all candidate ballot positions have been determined."

The public lottery is live and available to the public for viewing. This paper seeks clarification about the law in the following scenario. If the Board of Elections randomly generated several lists in advance of the public lottery and re-ran a preferred list for the live public event, would this be consistent with the law? In other words, if the Board of Elections used a randomized list (one of many) for ballot order and opted to use this list, does the law on elections cover this scenario? Our reading of the law is that there is ambiguity in the law. Technically, the ballot order would be random, but managed.

Certified Election Results Published in DC Register - This paper has twice emailed the DC Office of Attorney General to seek clarification about the certification of election results. The DC Board of Elections and Ethics is required by law to publish election results in the DC register, "shall publish the results of each election and the nominees or winners in the D.C. Register". We could not find the 2020 election results in the DC Register, including certification of write-in Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) results for an election in Southwest. We could not find where the ANC6D-02 election, a race with only write-in candidates and no ballot-eligible candidates, was certified. The Office of Attorney General has not responded to our question other than to say that they are looking into it. In part, the letter reads, "I have looked extensively through the DC Register - by DCR issue and by sorting by the DC Board of Elections. Am I missing something? This search started from an inquiry whether write-in candidates are considered part of the certified election results. I can't find an answer to that question either." The letters, which can be viewed here, discuss the search parameters to find the certified election results.

Southwest Voice is calling for immediate attention to the integrity of elections in the District to include the issues that we raised in our previous public statement (below).