The final D.C. Council legislative session of the term was a sad state of affairs to watch. It was sad to see because so many on the Council are running for reelection or higher office and based their votes not on what was right for the people of the District but rather what they thought would give them a political advantage.
They even avoided going on the record about moving the 2014 D.C. primary to June because the Council Chair who introduced the bill pulled it. It will be a travesty if we don't move the primary away from the current date, which is April Fool's Day. The only ones who could like that date besides incumbents are the late night comedians and D.C. has given them enough fodder for jokes without this.
The Council apparently had no problem thwarting the voters' desires and put off the election of an independent attorney general for four years but couldn't get themselves to vote for moving the primary ahead by less than three months. They need to be reminded that the only reason the primary was moved to April was to join with Virginia and Maryland to form a bloc in the presidential primaries. Now it's time to move it back to a reasonable date and not have the height of the election season be the three months of winter making it even harder for non-incumbents to reach voters.
I don't know of another locality that allows over seven months between a primary and the election of local candidates and there is good reason for that. That amount of time means the people of the District will have to suffer through endless months of a campaign after the primary which will clearly impact how the business of the District gets done or more likely doesn't get done.
There is good reason to move the primary to June 24, 2014 as that is the date of the Maryland primary. That will cause more people to realize it is happening because the news media will be focusing on both the D.C. mayor's race and the Maryland governor's race and people will be hearing over and over again the date of the election. Hopefully that will increase turnout while we can comfortably predict that an April 1 election will bring fewer voters to the polls.
The people of the District have recently faced a spate of special elections and we have seen lower and lower turnouts for these elections. Some suggest that people are simply tired of hearing the same themes over and over and that they don't think it makes a difference who they elect. Come next April 1 you can just imagine the headlines, "Which fool are you voting for on April Fool's Day" or 'I guess there really isn't an election it is just a big April Fool's joke".
While in many ways the District is doing better than we ever have before there are still issues that need to be worked on. Hopefully ethics won't be the only thing candidates talk about. While clearly ethics are very important the issues of homelessness, education, healthcare, economic development, and crime among others are what people need to hear about from the candidates. They need to hear detailed proposals, not just vision statements, and they need to hear from incumbents what they want to do that they didn't already have a chance to do. If we are lucky both the candidates and the media will not make this election mainly about race even though we know that race is always a factor in D.C. politics.
But first the D.C. Council needs to step up to the plate and move the primary date and they should do this at their first legislative session in the fall. I urge voters to write and call their councilmembers over their summer vacation and make their views on this known.