District, activists spar over color-coding

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

As lawyers squabble about the color-coding of check marks, a D.C. judge said Thursday that she will not rule for at least another week about whether a proposal to curtail corporate giving in city politics will appear on the November ballot.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Laura Cordero said she will review evidence at a Sept. 6 hearing -- just days before city officials have said they must begin printing the ballot.

Cordero's ruling will come in response to a final effort by supporters of Initiative 70, which would ban direct corporate donations to municipal campaigns, to place the issue before voters on Nov. 6.

The regulators said on Aug. 8 that the activists, organized as the D.C. Committee to Restore Public Trust, had not gathered enough signatures for the measure to appear on the ballot. The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics said the group fell about 1,726 signatures short of the 23,298 it needed.

But the activists have repeatedly argued that the District miscounted, which they characterized as "an egregious error."

The city, though, said the activists simply didn't understand the board's counting system, which relies on a system of check marks in red and green ink, and asked Cordero to dismiss the appeal.

"All 'check' symbols are not created equal," board lawyers wrote, arguing the activists "should have known that they could not rely solely on the number of check marks on a black-?and?-white photocopy of the petition."

At Cordero's urging, both sides met privately Thursday to discuss the counting methodology.

After the meeting, Bryan Weaver, who is helping spearhead the effort to place the measure on the ballot, said the board was deploying a "second standard" to defend itself.

He also defended initiative supporters for not monitoring the election board's counting process and opting to pursue a formal appeal.

"We don't want to be the guys down there over someone's shoulder for 30 days like we're looking at chads in Florida," Weaver said, referring to the controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential election. "[Now] I feel like if you're going to get a ballot initiative on the ballot, that's what you have to do."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner