Council Committee Passes Bill to Permanently Move D.C. Primary to June

District residents did not let long lines deter them from showing up in record numbers at sites like One Judiciary Square in order to cast their vote on the final day of early voting in Washington, D.C. on Friday, Nov. 4. Photo by Shevry Lassiter
District residents did not let long lines deter them from showing up in record numbers at sites like One Judiciary Square in order to cast their vote on the final day of early voting in Washington, D.C. on Friday, Nov. 4. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

The D.C. Council’s Committee of Judiciary and Public Safety voted unanimously Tuesday to approve Council member Charles Allen’s “Primary Date Alteration Amendment Act of 2017” — which starting next year, would permanently change the date of the District’s primary election from the first Tuesday in September to the third Tuesday in June.

“I want to thank my colleagues on the committee for working quickly on this bill, understanding the importance of communicating a clear election timeline to both officials and those considering running for office,” said Allen, the committee chair who introduced the bill last month.

The 2018 primary voting date is currently scheduled for Sept. 4 — the first Tuesday in the month and the day after the Labor Day holiday.

However, the Board of Elections has indicated that under current law, it will not be able to meet federal law requiring overseas ballots for the general election be mailed no less than 45 days before the general election. Any delay will place D.C.’s election in violation of federal law and invite legal action from the Department of Justice.

“In addition, June 19 will ensure Election Day — where the majority of our polling sites are held in school buildings — will occur shortly after the school year has ended,” Allen said. “It also ensures the two-week early voting period isn’t interrupted by the Memorial Day holiday weekend.”

The bill will be on the agenda for the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, May 16 along with identical emergency legislation to enact the law immediately since next year’s primary would be just over a year away.