- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams will argue in a city appeals court today that elections officials lacked sufficient evidence to strip his name off the Sept. 10 Democratic primary ballot, according to court documents.
The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics relied "almost exclusively on quotes in newspaper clippings never admitted into evidence or vouched for by any witness" in ruling to keep him off the ballot, states Mr. Williams' appeal.
A hearing on the appeal is set for 10:30 a.m. in the D.C. Court of Appeals at 515 Fifth St. NW.
The mayor will have 30 minutes to press his argument before Associate Judges Michael Farrel, Inez Reid-Smith and Eric Washington Jr. The board of elections and community activist Dorothy Brizill each will have 30 minutes to state their cases. It could be several days before the court makes up its mind.
In justifying a July 26 ruling that Mr. Williams failed to submit 2,000 valid signatures to secure himself a spot on the ballot, the elections board cited numerous forgeries among the more than 10,000 total signatures the mayor collected on petitions.
The elections board, a three-member panel appointed by the mayor, said it doubted the legitimacy of nearly 7,000 signatures collected by three of Mr. Williams' campaign staffers, Scott Bishop Sr., Scott Bishop Jr. and Crystal Bishop.
In making its ruling final, the board rejected a recommendation of D.C. Registrar of Voters Kathy Fairley, who said that even without the nearly 7,000 invalidated signatures, at least 2,235 other signatures were valid among the mayor's total submission. However, some of those signatures also were collected by the Bishops and the Bishops have refused to testify about how the signatures were obtained.
The elections board has said it was obligated to deny Mr. Williams a spot on the ballot because Mr. Bishop Sr. and Mr. Bishop Jr. invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer any questions at the July 26 hearing. Mrs. Bishop did not attend the hearing because she was in the hospital being treated for schizophrenia.
The mayor's appeal argues that the board unfairly ruled that the candidate had not sustained a burden of providing the validity of 2,000 signatures a burden which never rests on the candidate."
Mr. Williams' former campaign adviser, Charles Duncan, and petition circulators Robert Yeldell, Ann Lewis and the Bishop family have all been subpoenaed to testify today.
The election board's finding that it would have been impossible for the mayor to achieve the valid number of signatures if those collected by the Bishops were nullified, was made "without examining the signatures of the voters," Mr. Williams' appeal states.
It's an argument legal analysts say hinges on whether city judges choose to even listen to it, rather than simply uphold the original ruling of the elections board.
"The D.C. court will begin with the presumption that the board has acted properly," says Jamin B. Raskin, an American University law professor, who specializes in elections law. "It's up to the mayor to show that the board acted irrationally and arbitrarily in casting aside all of the signatures that were gathered by the Bishops.
The elections board concluded that the 945 "presumptively valid signatures" collected by the Bishops could not be verified. The board also noted that Mr. Williams' attorneys conceded in the mayor's response to challenges from the D.C. Watch organization led by Mrs. Brizill that 214 pages of signatures collected by the Bishops were invalid.
Mrs. Brizill, who unleashed her challenge to the mayor's petition signatures after noticing that thousands of signatures appeared to have been written by the same hand, last week filed her own motion with the appeals court. Her motion argues the elections board was justified in booting the mayor from the ballot because the actions of his campaign staffers implied criminal intent.
"The process has now been so tainted and polluted with criminal conduct that there can be no assurance that any one of the petitions signed by the Bishops has any authenticity or validity," Mrs. Brizill's court filing states. "[The mayor] himself admitted the Bishops' wrongdoing. With such a completely polluted pool of petitions, can [the mayor] tell this court with any degree of assurance which, if any, of the Bishops' remaining petitions are valid and which are false?"
Mr. Williams spent the weekend campaigning as a write-in candidate. He toured the District, speaking at several churches, dropping by community meetings and block parties in at least two neighborhoods and appearing on the radio as a special call-in guest.
"We could be witnessing an interesting scenario where the most serious candidate is running as a write-in and the more so-called frivolous candidates are on the ballot," Mr. Raskin said.

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