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During the past several months, two laws — one federal law relating to federal elections and one local law relating to D.C. elections — were passed that now require officials to mail ballots to military voters overseas at least 45 days in advance of an election. McLaughlin says 70 days is too short a window in which to prepare for a special election and still meet the new mandates.
“The additional 15 days from the original 30-day timetable shortens the window where we can qualify candidates for the ballot, so it doesn’t appear we can do 70 days any longer,” McLaughlin explained. “We’re in conversations with Norton’s office and with the council about what time periods would work and how long it takes to qualify candidates for the ballot and circulate petitions.”
Norton is also exploring other options to shorten the window.
One possibility is placing a referendum question on the April primary ballot. Voters could approve a change, subject to a possible reversal by Congress, which could overturn any referendum vote.
But there is also a problem with the referendum idea.
McLaughlin told Roll Call that regulations governing D.C. elections state that such a referendum may only be placed on a ballot if it is certified at least 90 days in advance of Election Day. With 83 days to go, the cutoff for the upcoming primary election has passed.
The referendum could be on ballots for the May special election or the November general election.