Editorial:  Proposal before Council on Tuesday Would Weaken ANC Authority

Editorial:  Proposal before Council on Tuesday Would Weaken ANC Authority

by Larry Janezich

On Tuesday, the City Council, according to a tweet by CM Charles Allen, will consider a proposal to drop the requirement that ANC candidates get 25 signatures on a nominating petition to get on the ballot.

This seems to be an extraordinarily bad idea, and one wonders how it deserves to be given the dignity of serious consideration.

Another proposal, according Allen, is to drop the signature requirement for at-large councilmember candidates from 3,000 to 250.  The proposal would change the collection of signatures to a no/low contact method, substituting electronic petitions for the paper and pen petitions in the interests of public safety.

A fundamental problem of politics is how to get our best people into government.  ANC commissioners provide a direct link between the city government and their communities.  Given only the statutory requirement that their opinion be “given great weight”, they struggle to make residents’ voices heard against a wall of indifference erected by the agencies they advise.

So now comes a proposal which not only makes individual commissioners less representative of their communities, but also undercuts what status they have.

Gottlieb Simon, Executive Director of the DC Office of ANCs, presented both sides of the issue in an email to all ANC commissioners across the city on Friday.  “On the one hand, even obtaining 25 signatures electronically would be challenging, processing electronic petitions instead of paper ones would still be a burden to some extent for Board of Elections, and petitions are unnecessary since so many ANC races have only one (ballot) candidate.

On the other hand, not requiring ANC candidates to obtain any signatures would mean treating ANCs differently than other elected officials, eliminating a reason and opportunity for candidates to have a useful conversation with constituents, and abandoning some (even minimal) demonstration of a candidate’s commitment and seriousness.”

Eliminating the standard criteria to qualify for a place on the ballot is not how we find our best candidates.  Our best people – those who are serious about representing our communities – will rise to the challenge.

Simon’s even handedness is understandable.  But no such constraint should inhibit commissioners and residents in responding to this proposal which will reduce the effectiveness and authority of the ANCs as well as repress the ability of communities to have a voice in the affairs of the city.

It may be that a reducing the number of signatures on an electronic petition for a city wide race is justified, but it’s hard to see how reducing qualifications for ANC candidates is.

CM Allen’s email is here:  callen@dccouncil.us


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7 responses to “Editorial:  Proposal before Council on Tuesday Would Weaken ANC Authority

  1. Craig D'Ooge

    Isn’t there already enough cronyism and logrolling in ANCs without making it even easier?

  2. Corey Holman, 6B06 Commissioner

    I’m conflicted on this. As a public health issue, we haven’t even reached the peak let alone the inevitable plateau that will follow. So this makes a lot of sense. However, dropping the signature requirements, as you say Larry, eliminates even the most basic threshold for claiming the ability to represent a community. But at the same time requiring signature collection during a public health emergency, besides the public health risk, would likely also entrench incumbents. When I ran in 2018 for my first term, I would have had to stretch to get the 25 signatures without actually getting out and talking to people. However, after a term in the position, my electronic connections to my constituents would make it perfunctory to get the electronic signatures.

    I don’t know what the answer is.

  3. One wonders how a post like this criticizes this change without mentioning the pandemic.

    Having candidates engage in the regular process of collecting signatures while an infectious disease spreads across the country also seems like an extraordinarily bad idea.

  4. derekfarwagi

    Totally agree with you.

  5. Ken Jarboe

    Like Corey I am conflicted about this. Given the contagion risk in the current pandemic, I am concerned about the public health risk of obtaining signatures. On the other hand, the process of qualifying for the ballot is important. It forces the potential candidates to take the process seriously. I am also concerned about the idea that the process can just as easily be done electronically. While 6B is relatively well connected electronically, there is still a digital divide in our city. We should not assume that all our neighbors are digitally connected.

    I would hope that a better way can be found. If we can figure out how to get take out food and drinks while staying at home, surely we can figure out a non-contact way to safely collect nominating signatures.

  6. Former Commissoner R. Marlin

    I agree with Mr. Larry Janezich, reducing the number of signatures for an ANC seat, reduces their qualification, thus this is a bad idea; so is not having voter ID which encourages voter fraud. The BOEE Director and the BOEE Board advocates this practice of not using a voter ID. The ANC’s represent the citizens in a given community so they need to know us and be invested in the community they take an Oath to serve. The City Council did not create ANC’s thus should not be allowed to determine matters in this regard, Congress created ANC’s. Hence, CW Norton should be the go to person on these matters NOT CM Allen. CM Allen has proven not to be the best advocate for honest, and fraud free voting. He has shown favoritism to a BOEE system that negates the laws mandating having a BOEE Director reside within the city and he condones the Board of the BOEE not enforcing ANC laws regarding residency requirement, mainly showing no proof of residency when petitions are picked up. CM Allen is and has shown a total disregard for our voting system ethics, thus he should not be the member introducing anything to the city council pertaining to voting in the District of Columbia.

  7. Gerald E Sroufe

    I think we can agree that an extraordinary time justifies extraordinary measures.

    CM Allen’s proposal to meet our election process problems in these times is of two parts. One part provides a process for electronic gathering and transmitting of signatures — an imaginative solution to our immediate problem. However, if this part of the legislation is approved there is no need for the second part as it relates to the ANCs: to modify the number of signatures required for ANC candidacy. It is not difficult for most to gather 25 signatures electronically in a very short time and the precedent of eliminating the modest requirement of community support is problematic and unnecessary.