The District of Columbia will move the primary election date from September to June permanently if Mayor Muriel Bowser signs a recent piece of legislation.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and former Council Chair Sterling Tucker admire a photo of Tucker that was unveiled at the Wilson building in May. (Photo Courtesy of D.C. Council)

On May 16, the D.C. Council passed The Primary Date Alteration Amendment Act of 2017 which moved the date of all future D.C. primary elections to the third Tuesday in June, starting with next year’s election which, according to the bill, would be scheduled on June 19, 2018. Allen’s bill was moved as emergency legislation, which means it would take effect immediately.

“This bill needs to move quickly to provide potential candidates with sufficient time to plan to run for public office, to allow the board of elections enough time to make necessary preparations for the election, and to ensure that voters are aware of the change in date and able to participate at the polls,” Allen said in a statement.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) is expected to sign the bill.

Allen, chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, authored the legislation because the elections board indicated that under present law, it would not be able to meet federal law requiring overseas ballots for the general election to be mailed no less than 45 days before the general election.

Allen also said moving the date to June avoids conflicts with schools that serve as polling places and avoids any federal holidays during the two-week early voting period to maximize voter turnout.

The 2018 primary voting date was scheduled for Sept. 4, 2018, the first Tuesday in September and the day after the Labor Day holiday.

Allen’s bill comes in time for the 2018 election cycle in which the District’s mayor, attorney general, council chairman, and Wards 1, 3, 5, 6, and two-at large council positions are in contention.

“The bill allows the city to be in compliance with federal law,” Kevin B. Chavous, president of the D.C. Young Democrats, told the AFRO. “Plus, there have been a number of changes in the primary date in recent years and that has confused people. Allen’s bill provides permanency.

In 2016, the primary date was June 16 but in 2014, it was April 1. In 2012, the primary election took place on April 3 while in 2010, it was held on Sept. 14.

Since the advent of Home Rule in 1973, primary elections were held in September but changes were made in 2012 to accommodate the presidential primary season. In 2014, the April 1 date stayed because the D.C. Council failed to change the date in time and there were concerns about overseas ballots.

Ronnie Edwards, longtime member of the Ward 5 Democrats and the D.C. Democratic State Committee and an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 5, told the AFRO he favors September as the primary date, conceptually. “From June to November to me is a long time for a primary winner getting ready to assume office,” Edwards said, inferring that Democrats generally win the general election in the District. “I don’t like the change that Allen’s bill makes but let me be clear, it is better than holding the primary in April. That is really too much time.”

Edwards said that the September primary “allows candidates to get signatures and meet people through the crucial summer months.”

“Anything is better than April, where getting signatures on the ballot and campaigning in the winter months is cold, difficult, and challenging,” he said.

Tony Donaldson Jr., a Ward 1 resident and D.C. State Board of Education at-large candidate in 2016, agrees with Edwards on the point of campaigning in the summer. “I was running for an office in the general election that required no primary,” Donaldson told the AFRO, “but I would say that in the summer there is nicer weather and you can engage people more. Charles Allen’s bill gives people more time to campaign.”