- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

The District's Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday is destined to be interesting, if your idea of interesting was a Florida bureaucrat holding up a "pregnant chad" in the 2000 presidential election.
A spokesman with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has issued a cautionary note to voters, which might as well be a warning. The primary won't be over until the board members say it is over possibly seven to 10 days after the election and even then you will be urged to cross your fingers and say a silent prayer.
This is a lawyerfest waiting to happen, mostly because Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the Rev. Willie F. Wilson are waging write-in campaigns and because the city's voting machines read on the newborn level.
The new voting machines go by the name of Optech Eagle and expect to be burped and fed on a regular basis. The city is all too familiar with needy, nettlesome objects, and the familiarity has bred a certain contempt for the darling named Destiny at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Destiny works when it feels like it, not unlike the sleepyheaded employees in its midst. You can find the DMV branches in the city by the long lines, short fuses and rescue personnel performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the weary citizenry.
You can't fight City Hall. You also can't fight Destiny and Optech Eagle.
This is just great. They might as well hold this primary on a stone tablet. The timing of the primary is not too good, either, considering it falls on the day before the one-year anniversary of September 11.
The spokesman with the elections board says the panel will endeavor "to determine voter intent," which sounds like a threat. Intent is one of those touchy-feely words, ever dependent on how a person might define it on a particular day.
You can blame the impending mess on Dudley Moore, the itty-bitty funnyman from Great Britain who cast his support for the mayor after passing away in March. Unfortunately, all attempts to reach the late actor by seance went unanswered, and so members of the elections board had no choice but to throw the mayor off the Democratic ballot and the primary into the great unknown.
What was a formality is now a fight to the finish, if the fight ever finishes.
Even the one or two Republicans who live in the city have been moved to come out of hiding.
Hold onto your hats and voter-registration cards. If this primary works like everything else in the city, it is going to be a humdinger. The elections board is hoping to have the final tally in seven to 10 days, assuming the board members are able to read the minds of the living better than the minds of the dead.
The process is fraught with potential problems, starting with the vaguely tricky last names of the candidates, Williams and Wilson, Wilson and Williams. The two could be taken as Woodrow Wilson and William Tell, or Wilson Sporting Goods and Ted Williams.
The elections board suggests that voters employ the title of their write-in choice, as follows: the Rev. Williams or Mayor Wilson. Or just make an educated guess between Tony Wilson and Willie Nelson.
Voters also are being encouraged to write legibly, to take it one letter at a time, as such: N-E-L-S-O-N M-A-N-D-E-L-A. Being able to spell will be helpful as well, although being pretty close will count in the primary. You know the old saying: Close only counts in horseshoes and in the D.C. Democratic mayoral primary.
In the end, a vote for the Rev. Tiny Tim probably will go down as a vote for the mayor because of the similarity between Tiny and Tony.
The spokesman with the elections board, perhaps as a pre-emptive measure to the fallout, has raised the issue of voter responsibility with the new system. The elections board has conducted a zillion seminars to educate voters in the last 18 months and cannot be faulted if voters failed to choose the classroom over dinner out, a show at the Kennedy Center and a nightcap. How clear are the options?
What are you doing tonight? Oh. Sorry. Forgot.
You're going to the elections board classroom to have a hot time.
The elections board supplies the entertainment: the Optech Eagle machines, the ballots, the writing materials and the Lamaze-like breathing exercises to help voters deal with the stress of being all alone in the voting booth.
Pat Buchanan confused the Jewish voters in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 2000. Who knows what his name might do to voters in the District? The two a's in Buchanan go with the two a's in Anthony A.
Let's hope for the best.


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