- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

Members of the Democratic Party in Ward 6 say a special election tonight to pick a new member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee is disenfranchising residents, and they have filed a challenge to postpone the election.

The intraparty dispute comes four months after the committee threw out a leadership election in Ward 5, citing improper election practices and a violation of party bylaws.

The Ward 6 special election will be held to fill the seat vacated by Larry Gray, who died in July. Mr. Gray’s term expires in September 2004.

But Robert Siegel, a candidate for the post, filed a challenge Saturday with D.C. Democratic State Committee Chairman A. Scott Bolden. The challenge was signed by three other members of the D.C. Democratic State Committee and five Democratic Party members.

The challenge contends that notice of the election provided in “The Newsletter of D.C.’s Ward 6 Democrats” in September 2003 was “defective and insufficient” because it did not adequately inform residents and prospective candidates about the method for declaring candidacy.

“They filed a challenge before the election,” Mr. Bolden said yesterday. “We’re reviewing it. We’re considering it.”

Party officials said the notification questions were moot because the election is being held by the state committee to fill a state committee seat, not a Ward 6 seat.

Mr. Siegel disputed that interpretation. His supporters also claimed that Ward 6 Democratic Party officials were attempting to “dilute” the voting process by holding the vote “at rush hour and at an unfamiliar meeting place.” The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the H Street Playhouse at 1365 H St. NE.

Some Ward 6 party members said for as long as they could remember elections have been held on Saturday afternoons, usually at places like libraries. Mr. Siegel said he has support from senior citizens in the ward who have said they will be unable to attend the meeting.

“It looks like the fairness of the vote is being railroaded,” Mr. Siegel said. “I want to get as many people out to vote as possible.”

Party officials countered that the special election in April 1999 that put Mr. Gray in office was held on a Tuesday night.

Mr. Siegel contends that Mr. Bolden has ignored the challenge because the party chairman has endorsed another candidate — a claim Mr. Bolden called “nonsense.”

Mr. Bolden said similar elections recently in wards 5 and 8 have been held at night and have achieved record voter turnout. He said the election has been postponed once already and that the party must fill the seat.

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