- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2002

The D.C. Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the city election board's ruling to strip Mayor Anthony A. Williams' name from the Sept. 10 Democratic primary ballot, forcing the mayor to run for a second term as a write-in candidate.
In rejecting Mr. Williams' appeal of the July 26 ruling by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, Appellate Judges Michael Farrell, Inez Smith-Reid and Eric Washington Sr. said it was "within the board's authority" to take the mayor's name off the ballot.
The board was justified in its ruling because "the nominating process has been seriously compromised by the actions" of some of those who collected signatures for the mayor's nominating petitions, the judges said.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Williams told reporters at his weekly news conference that he intends to win the Democratic primary as a write-in candidate.
"My whole effort has been for the last week to really get this write-in [campaign] under way," he said.
The mayor added that he did not "have the luxury of sitting around waiting in anticipation" for a ruling from the appeals court an issue made moot by the court's ruling.
Meanwhile, the elections board said yesterday it could slap the Williams campaign with a $1.3 million fine for submitting 6,500 "obvious forgeries" on his nominating petitions last month, and it referred Crystal Bishop, another Williams campaign staffer, to the U.S. Attorney's Office and the D.C. corporation counsel for criminal review.
On Tuesday, several lower-level campaign staffers including signature collectors Scott Bishop Sr., Scott Bishop Jr., Ann Lewis and Robert Yeldell were referred to prosecutors. Transcripts of the election board's hearings on the signature scandal also will be turned over to the legal authorities.
Neither Mr. Williams nor his campaign co-chairwoman Gwendolyn Hemphill and his former adviser Charles N. Duncan have been referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The elections board, a three-member panel appointed by the mayor, is expected to announce today whether it will fine Mr. Williams' campaign for the fraudulent signatures.
It has the legal authority to levy a maximum fine of $200 for each count of election fraud. If each forged signature is ruled a separate count, the total fine would be $1.3 million nearly matching the $1.4 million in campaign contributions the mayor has collected over the last year.
In ruling to take Mr. Williams off the ballot, the elections board cited numerous forgeries and said the mayor's campaign failed to submit the required 2,000 valid signatures to secure a spot.
Registrar of Voters Kathryn Fairley's final determination showed that 6,500 of the 10,120 signatures submitted by the Williams' campaign were forged.
"There can be no justification for this [fraud] from someone who claims to be defending the will of the voters," board of elections Chairman Benjamin F. Wilson said yesterday.
The Bishops refused to testify about the signatures they collected. The board has said 74 percent of the forgeries were submitted in the Bishops' names.
The elder Mr. Bishop worked on Mr. Williams' 1998 campaign and had done a good job hanging signs then and now, the mayor said yesterday. But Mr. Williams said he did not tell campaign officials to hire Mr. Bishop to run his petition effort.
Under D.C. law, forging signatures on a nominating petition can carry a sentence of up to six months in jail and a $10,000 fine for each count. Additionally, there is a criminal penalty of a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail for signing the affidavit on a fraudulent petition.
A fraudulent petition can be one that is forged, one on which the circulator does not witness every voter's signature, or one that is signed by a circulator who did not collect the signatures. All three instances occurred in Mr. Williams' campaign to collect nominating signatures, according to the elections board.
"It is incredible to me that this could happen in the United States of America," elections board member Stephen J. Callas said.

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