- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2010

Despite the assurances of the top Democratic contenders, D.C. primary voters may go to bed Tuesday night not knowing who will govern them for the next four years.

With incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray locked in a tight battle, 22,000 early ballots and an unknown number of absentee and provisional/special ballots will not be tabulated until days after the polls close on the primaries. Same-day voter registration and charges of vote-buying compound the prospects.

“There will be extraordinary challenges with respect to oversight and adjudication that the [D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics] must address,” said Republican Jim DeMartino, who is running for a D.C. Council seat in Ward 6.

Some 106,178 votes were cast in the contested 2006 Democratic primary, with Mr. Fenty defeating his closest challenger by 28,000 votes. In the heavily Democratic city, the party primary is considered tantamount to election in November.

Compounding the logistical challenge, D.C. voters for the first time this year participated in early balloting and are being permitted to register and vote on the same day.

Ballots cast Tuesday will be counted first, followed by the more than 22,000 ballots cast in early balloting, which ended Monday.

The final count of special, challenged and absentee votes is slated for Sept. 24, elections officials said.

Both of the major candidates, campaigning right to the end, expressed a hope that the decision would be known as quickly as possible.

When asked Monday whether voters will know the result on Tuesday night, Mr. Gray said, “I’m hoping.” Mr. Fenty was even more confident. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I do.”

Hoping to profit from the good will sparked by the Washington Redskins’ Sunday night 13-7 win over their Dallas Cowboy rivals, Mr. Fenty was seen Monday morning at a busy Northwest intersection, wearing a Redskin jersey bearing the number 5 of quarterback Donovan McNabb.

As he greeted drivers, his supporters chanted, “Four more years.”

The potential for legal challenges also looms now that both candidates are urging federal authorities to investigate reports of vote-buying.

The Gray campaign has asked the FBI to look into accusations that a youth was promised a job with the Fenty campaign by a Fenty supporter.

Meanwhile, a Gray supporter is accused of buying votes by handing out gift cards.

“There are some serious allegations,” Mr. Fenty said before walking off to shake hands with potential supporters.

Some D.C. Democrats have expressed concern about the vote-counting, saying same-day registration opens the democratic process to all sorts of mischief, including possible challenges to every ballot cast by a same-day registrant.

Mr. DeMartino, favored to win the GOP nod in the Ward 6 race, said a potential post-election-day calamity could be laid at the feet of the city’s Democratic leadership.

He noted that Mr. Gray and his colleagues refused to approve the mayor’s choice for a Republican representative on the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE).

“My concern with same-day voter registration is the implementation process at the polling stations,” he said.

“That is why the minority party vacancy on the BOEE is so significant. The council’s inadequate actions to fill the minority vacancy has again proven they do not respect other parties in the District.”

Democrats are mocking democracy, he said.

“All voices have the right to speak,” he said, “but when one party is dominant and complacent in their governing, they act as though they speak for all, without regard for minority opinions.”

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