- The Washington Times - Monday, February 6, 2012

D.C. Council member Yvette M. Alexander can breathe a sigh of relief.

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics ruled on Monday there is insufficient evidence to suggest Ms. Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat, should be kept off the April 3 primary ballot despite accusations her petition circulators did not witness many of the signatures they authorized in their filings to the board.

Ms. Alexander’s team submitted 1,384 signatures to the elections board from registered ward voters — far above the 250 signatures needed to get on the April 3 ballot.

But Ward 7 resident Dawn Matthews accused two of the three men who circulated Ms. Alexander’s petitions — Derek Ford and George B. Browne Jr. — of signing off on petition pages filled with signatures that were collected by a van full of “assistants” in violation of the city elections laws.

A preliminary review by the elections board’s registrar determined that 955 signatures, or 705 more than needed, were presumed valid. However, Ms. Matthews argued the board should invalidate all of the petitions circulated by the Mr. Browne and Mr. Ford because it was “not possible” to determine which petitions they actually circulated, according to elections board filings.

Ms. Matthews said her fiance, Vincent Cooke, signed one of Ms. Alexander’s petitions after he was approached by a young man, yet a much-older Mr. Browne — who is retired — signed off on the page containing his signature.

The board acknowledged they must rely on the circulator to be a “citizen-officer in the nominating process” and swear to the truth, but Ms. Matthews had to produce “sizable” evidence that Ms. Alexander’s team engaged in a pattern of fraud.

“She did not meet that burden,” the board said.

The board cited cases involving then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams and a 2004 initiative to introduce video slot machines to the District as instances in which petitions “were replete with forgeries and other defects.”

“That is not the case here,” the board said.

Although a team run by Lancer Group consultant Harold Gist gathered signatures on Ms. Alexander’s behalf, Mr. Ford testified the campaign decided not to use those petition pages based on advice from their counsel, David Wilmot.

Mr. Ford said the campaign threw away the pages containing about 700 signatures from assistant circulators.

Kembry Hughes, the campaign manager for one of Ms. Alexander’s Democratic opponents, Tom Brown, assisted Ms. Matthews during her testimony before the board. Mr. Hughes testified he looked into the Alexander team’s practices based on the sheer volume of signatures that the campaign acquired over a short period of time, from mid-November to early December.

Mr. Ford and Mr. Browne said they were simply diligent and targeted sites with heavy traffic, fast-food restaurants and shopping centers.

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