DC Board of Elections Rejects Medical Marijuana Petitions -- Admits One of Seven Valid Signatures Ignored but Refuses to Correct Error 8/9/02

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(press release from the Marijuana Policy Project)

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is considering its legal options after the Washington, DC, Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) refused to correct its erroneous omission of thousands of valid signatures for Initiative 63, the Medical Marijuana Initiative of 2002.

"The Board has acted capriciously and unfairly," said MPP Executive Director Robert Kampia. "We presented clear evidence of massive errors by the Board's staff, but the Board refused to use its discretion to uphold the will of DC voters."

Initiative petitions must contain valid signatures from five percent of the District's registered voters, and that total must include five percent of voters from at least five of the city's eight wards. There is no dispute that the more than 18,000 signatures accepted by the Board met the citywide requirement, but the BOEE claimed that MPP had presented enough valid signatures from only four of eight wards. In Ward 4, the board claimed MPP fell approximately 100 signatures short.

But MPP's review of the Board's work found that massive numbers of valid signatures had been falsely ruled invalid. An analysis of nearly 4,000 allegedly bad signatures found that at least 15 percent were clearly valid.

Kampia and MPP Director of Government Relations Steve Fox met with Registrar Kathy Fairley prior to the Board's deliberations and presented her with the results of the MPP's analysis. After reviewing a sample of petitions, Fairley agreed that a large number of perfectly good signatures had been erroneously disallowed -- and reported that finding to the board.

But rather than owning up to the massive errors and extrapolating the results of MPP's analysis, BOEE Chairman Benjamin F. Wilson insisted that MPP must either verify each and every falsely invalidated signature -- a project that would cost the nonprofit group approximately 400 person-hours of staff time, on top of the 100 hours already spent identifying and correcting the Board's mistakes -- or trust the same staff that made the errors in the first place to recheck their work.

"This is outrageous," Kampia said. "Whether out of malice or simple incompetence, the Board screwed up, and now they insist that our staff and members must shoulder the burden of fixing their mistakes. That's not acceptable. The Board of Elections and Ethics fraudulently disenfranchised thousands of District voters and then refused to take responsibility for its actions. We didn't pick this fight, but we will win it."

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