Councilmember Elissa Silverman in the Press

Amid Congressional gridlock, pressure mounts on DC to apply for $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits

By Avi Bajpai and Eunice Sung, Street Sense Media, August 28, 2020

More than a month after the $600 per week federal unemployment benefits expired, Congress has yet to negotiate an extension of the program, and pressure is now mounting on D.C. to apply for the temporary relief measure being offered by the Trump administration...

At-large Councilmember Elissa Silverman, who chairs the D.C. Council Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, agrees. In a statement, Silverman said the District should apply to the grant program as long as Trump’s executive order is “legally sufficient,” adding that the main goal “is to keep these households and our local economy as stable as possible in this uncertain time.” She said she has heard from some workers asking why D.C. hasn’t yet applied for the unemployment benefits.

“Households are on the brink right now. Unfortunately, I think the executive order and the Congressional deal are caught up in 2020 electoral politics,” Silverman said. “Let me be clear, for the sake of our country and our city, we need Trump voted out of office. But families shouldn’t face an economic abyss because of presidential politics.”

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Despite COVID-19 Case Increases in Phase 2, Mayor Declines to Scale Back Any Activities

By Amanda Michelle Gomez, Washington City Paper, August 19, 2020

“INCREASING TREND” reads a July 23 press release from the District’s health department. An accompanying line graph shows multiple red dots that represent peaks in new COVID-19 cases throughout the month of July. That press release was the first time the Bowser administration acknowledged that the number of cases in D.C. was climbing again, after the city experienced weeks of declines and plateaus at the end of spring and into early summer...

At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman says she sees weekly calls with DC Health as a way to provide oversight. She continues to call for more transparency around contact-tracing data, and suggests DC Health publish its findings on its online dashboard, as a few other states have. She’d like to see something like Louisiana’s public data, which includes a list of the settings where outbreaks are happening and how many cases are associated with those settings.

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Here’s one way Trump could try to steal the election, voting experts say

By Robert McCartney, The Washington Post, August 17, 2020

There’s a plausible way that independent voting experts worry President Trump could try to steal the election: by blocking the counting of mail-in ballots.

Democrats are much more supportive of voting by mail than Republicans, according to recent polls. That’s partly because Trump has falsely smeared mail-in voting as subject to widespread fraud.

“Right now, there’s just massive confusion about what we’re doing,” D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) said. “I’ve been on two community chats where people have no idea what’s going on.”

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Bowser seeks ethics review of aide who discussed job at Howard after negotiating tax break for university

By Fenit Nirappil and Michael Brice-Saddler, Washington City Paper, August 15, 2020

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has requested an ethics review of a freshly departed top aide who discussed taking a job with Howard University months after negotiating a deal for nearly $300 million in tax breaks and public funding for a new hospital for the university...

Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) said she was surprised to learn about Young’s actions given his reputation as an ethical actor.

“Certainly the optics are very bad here, that he was the lead negotiator for the administration both with Howard and with the council getting this deal passed, and then to turn around and work for Howard,” Silverman said in an interview. “Whether it’s an ethics violation, I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t look good and doesn’t seem to pass the smell test.”

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Amid national Postal Service crisis, D.C. area residents struggle without consistent mail

By Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, August 15, 2020

In the Washington region, the problems besetting the U.S. Postal Service nationwide sometimes look like a missing check that is badly needed to pay the rent, a bottle of medication delivered days after the last prescription ran out or a mailbox that sits empty day after day...

As constituent services director for D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), Pat Joseph has been keeping an eye on mail complaints in D.C. neighborhoods. She knows about the problem firsthand: “Last week I got no mail at all,” she said. “Usually I get something, even if it’s a circular, or a postcard trying to buy my house. I talked to my neighbors. They said the same thing … To go a whole week with nothing, that’s bad. That’s really bad.”

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DC Officials Apologize for Voting Mailer With Crucial Design Flaw

By Mark Segraves, NBC 4, August 13, 2020

A mailer sent to every registered voter in Washington, D.C., was supposed to help residents cast their ballots. Instead, it sparked confusion. 

The D.C. Board of Elections apologized on Thursday after a design flaw confused voters ahead of the general election. As many as 500,000 of the faulty mailers were sent out.

The mailer lets voters confirm or change their mailing address. But if you follow the instructions and tear the card along the perforated line before you mail it back, some of your vital information will not be included. 

“This election is too important to fail,” said D.C. Council Member Elissa Silverman. She’s one of several elected officials raising concerns about the latest error by D.C. election officials. 

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DC mailer sent to voters causing confusion, concern

By Bob Barnard, FOX 5, August 13, 2020

A D.C. Board of Elections mailer intended to confirm voters’ addresses in order to send them mail-in ballots this year is already creating confusion for some – and it’s all because of a design flaw. In the era of the novel coronavirus, many jurisdictions are asking residents to vote by mail. While voters in Maryland and Virginia must apply for a ballot, D.C. elections officials are trying to make it as easy as possible.

So they sent out the mailer to confirm residents’ addresses. Some recipients noticed, however, that if you tear the mailer along a perforation, crucial information may be lost.

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A mailer was supposed to make voting easier for D.C. residents. Instead, it confused them

By Michael Brice-Saddler, The Washington Post, August 12, 2020

A mailer from the D.C. Board of Elections meant to help registered voters in the District confirm their address has spurred confusion for some residents, who say the form’s poor design and instructions have prevented them from filling it out as intended.

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The Politics Hour: Friday, July 31, 2020

Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU 88.5, July 31, 2020

After two whirlwind meetings, the D.C. Council passed the 2021 fiscal year budget. D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman joined The Politics Hour to discuss that, plus the latest D.C. coronavirus news.

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D.C. Council approves amendments to $16.7 billion budget

By Shen Wu Tan, The Washington Times, July 28, 2020

The D.C. Council on Tuesday approved supplementary legislation for the fiscal 2021 budget, finalizing the city’s multibillion-dollar spending plan.

The 13 lawmakers discussed proposals about affordable housing, charter schools and an expansion of cash assistance for workers who don’t qualify for unemployment insurance, having approved the overall $16.7 billion budget last week.

The Council shot down an amendment by Council member Vincent Gray, Ward 7 Democrat, that would have included Northeast and Southeast as being eligible for tax abatements for affordable housing.

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Despite Self-Quarantine Exemption, Officials Say Maryland Beachgoers Should Exercise Caution

By Nathan Diller, DCist, July 28, 2020

D.C. began requiring travelers from areas with high levels of COVID-19 to self-quarantine for two weeks on Monday, and the city released a list of 27 states deemed high-risk, including Delaware, where many locals vacation in towns like Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach.

Maryland and Virginia, though, are exempt from the list, meaning visitors from Delaware must remain at home or in their hotel rooms after arriving in D.C., while those coming from Ocean City, Maryland — just a half-hour drive from Bethany Beach — will not.


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New affordable development incentives survive in D.C.'s coronavirus-constrained 2021 budget

By Alex Koma, Washington Business Journal, July 28, 2020

A new program to provide tax breaks for the construction of affordable housing in D.C.’s wealthiest neighborhoods survived the finalization of the city’s 2021 budget, though lawmakers frequently scuffled over the exact contours of the plan.

Tuesday’s unanimous vote by the D.C. Council ensured the new tax abatement will be included in the spending plan, offering developers up to 40 years worth of real estate tax savings if they build affordable projects in areas traditionally walled off from new construction. It’s one element among many approved in the council’s final consideration of the 2021 budget, bringing to a close one of the most tumultuous budget seasons in the District’s history, as the Covid-19 pandemic drained the city’s coffers and forced some difficult choices by lawmakers.


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City-State Brewing breaks ground in DC’s Edgewood neighborhood

By Jeff Clabaugh, WTOP, July 27, 2020

After more than three years of fundraising and planning, a former Senate staffer’s brewery started construction last week near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station in D.C.’s Edgewood neighborhood.

Attending the official groundbreaking were representatives from the office of D.C.’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development and the Department of Small and Local Business Development, as well as Council Member Elissa Silverman.


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D.C. Attorney General Sues 16 Real Estate Companies, Professionals For Alleged Discrimination

By Hannah Schuster and Jenny Gathright, DCist, July 23, 2020

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has filed eight different lawsuits alleging that landlords, property managers and realtors discriminated against D.C. housing voucher holders.

Racine is suing 16 real estate companies and professionals for allegedly creating online ads that said they would not rent to prospective tenants who used housing vouchers — actions that disproportionately harmed Black D.C. residents.


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D.C. Council Repeals Short-Lived Ad Tax As Lawmakers Close Out Challenging Budget Season

By Martin Austermuhle, DCist, July 23, 2020

The D.C. Council on Thursday repealed a new and controversial tax on the sale of ads before unanimously approving an $8.5 billion budget for 2021. With the votes, lawmakers closed out a testy and challenging process that saw them grapple — almost exclusively over Zoom — with a budget that for the first time in years didn’t have the benefit of growing revenues.

The final vote on the local portion of the city’s budget was delayed by two days after what some lawmakers called a “debacle” and “dumpster fire” of a debate on Tuesday over a proposed 3% tax on the sale of advertisements and personal data. While the Council signed off on the new tax earlier this month — a move that was expected to raise $18 million a year — growing opposition from local newspapers and small businesses led many lawmakers to reconsider this week.


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D.C. Council pushes St. E’s, Howard University hospital deals closer to reality

By Sara Gilgore, Washington Business Journal, July 22, 2020

D.C. just took another step toward bringing two new hospitals to the city.

The D.C. Council Tuesday approved a bill for a new community hospital on the St. Elizabeths East campus that would replace the dilapidated, financially ailing United Medical Center in Southeast and “catalyze a comprehensive health care system for wards 7 and 8, for the first time ever in the history of this city,” said Councilman Vince Gray, D-Ward 7, at the meeting.


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D.C. Council looks to scrap advertising tax hike amid industry opposition, delay budget vote

By Alex Koma, Washington Business Journal, July 21, 2020

In a sudden reversal, D.C. lawmakers appear to be ditching plans for an advertising sales tax increase amid fierce industry opposition, pushing a final vote on the city's fiscal 2021 budget out at least a day.

The D.C. Council was set to finalize roughly $8.6 billion in local spending for 2021, and that included a 3% tax on the sale of all advertisements and personal information. But lawmakers called off those plans at the last minute, opting instead to find $18 million in budget cuts so they can avoid the tax hike.


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D.C. Council backtracks on advertising tax; delays vote to address budget hole

By Fenit Nirrapil, The Washington Post, July 21, 2020

The chairman of the D.C. Council on Tuesday abandoned his own proposal to tax advertising, leaving city officials scrambling to figure out what to cut from the budget to make up for an estimated $18 million loss in projected revenue.

Lawmakers delayed the final vote on the $16.8 billion spending plan until Thursday.

The 3 percent advertising tax was among the last-minute tax increases authorized by the council when lawmakers cast their first budget vote on July 7. Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) proposed the tax on July 6.


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The DC Council is expected to take its first vote on a Vision Zero Omnibus bill Tuesday

By Alex Baca, Greater Greater Washington, July 20, 2020

On Tuesday, the DC Council will take its first vote on the Vision Zero Omnibus bill, which passed unanimously out of its committee hearing on July 10. This legislation is part of the District’s larger goal to end traffic deaths by 2024.

Members of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment all supported the bill, which was co-introduced by Councilmembers Charles Allen (Ward 6), Anita Bonds (At-large), Robert White (At-large), Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5), Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), David Grosso (At-large), Elissa Silverman (At-large), and Brandon Todd (Ward 4).


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District Links : Coronavirus cases rise in DC and region; Bowser plugs statehood on Tax Day; and more

By Chris Kain and Cuneyt Dil, The DC Line, July 15, 2020

Happy Wednesday. Tax Day usually falls on or around DC Emancipation Day, but last-minute filers are rushing in the midsummer heat thanks to the reprieve from the customary April deadline. Now, just less than two weeks removed from Independence Day, Mayor Muriel Bowser has designated July 15 as "Officially End Taxation Without Representation Day" in the District.

"2020 will be remembered for a lot of reasons — we know that," Bowser said at this morning's press conference. "But we want to add one more reason: We want to make 2020 the year our nation finally ended taxation without representation."


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D.C. streetcar's extension just survived a budget challenge. But its future still looks murky.

By Alex Koma, Washington Business Journal, July 8, 2020

District lawmakers will keep money in the budget to fund the much-maligned extension of the H Street streetcar to Benning Road Metro station — but the future of the project looks far from settled.

D.C. Councilman Robert White, D-At large, came just a few votes shy of convincing his colleagues to shift away $35 million in funding for the project Tuesday, as part of a plan to redirect that cash to public housing repairs instead. And while that effort may have failed, the budget debate still revealed a broad lack of confidence in a project that’s been in the works for the better part of the last six years.


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D.C. Council Grants Initial Approval To Deal For New Hospital In Ward 8

By Aja Beckham, DCist, July 8, 2020

After years of failed efforts, the District is one step closer to reaching a deal to build a new hospital in Southeast D.C., where residents face the most stark health inequities in the city.

On Tuesday, the D.C. Council voted in favor of a bill approving a deal with George Washington University Hospital to build a new hospital on the St. Elizabeths campus in Ward 8. The bill still needs to come up for a second vote before its final passage.


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Inside DC Council's marathon Tuesday meeting: equity, budget, police reform, and more

By Heather Graf, WJLA, July 7, 2020

Tuesday marked the first of two required council votes on the District's $8.5 billion proposed budget. And ahead of that vote, council members took part in a marathon virtual meeting that started at 10 a.m.

The conversation also comes as protests continue on Black Lives Matter Plaza, with demonstrators calling on council members to defund the DC Police Department and instead invest that money in Black communities.


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D.C. Council Vote Cuts Corporate Tax Breaks And Funds Affordable Housing, Other Supportive Services

By Jenny Gathright, WAMU, July 7, 2020

Against the backdrop of a pandemic that has laid bare the life-and-death consequences of racial and economic inequality in the District, the D.C. Council took its first budget vote on Tuesday. Much of the debate centered on whether to increase taxes on the city’s wealthiest residents and corporations in order to free up funds for affordable housing, violence interruption programs, school-based mental health, economic relief for undocumented workers and other interventions that benefit the city’s poorest residents.

In the end, the council voted to move about $60 million in additional funding toward these programs, funds they freed up by increasing the city’s estate tax, further increasing cuts to a tax credit for tech companies, delaying some corporate tax cuts, increasing the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon and increasing a tax on advertising.


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D.C. Council nudges St. E’s hospital bill to next stage

By Sara Gilgore, Washington Business Journal, July 7, 2020

The D.C. Council unanimously advanced legislation Tuesday evening that would bring a new $306 million community hospital to the District’s eastern side, filling a gaping hole in the city’s health care landscape that has only worsened amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill, entitled the “New Hospital at St. Elizabeths Amendment Act of 2020,” passed on its first reading before the full council, less than a week after sailing through a health committee vote — and, now, bringing the District a step closer to departing the hospital-operating business.


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Jaffe Report: Why Selling DC's Football Team Would Be a Win for Dan Snyder

By Harry Jaffe, NBC Washington, July 3, 2020

Remember how Dan Snyder reacted to demands he change the name of Washington, D.C.’s pro football franchise? “NEVER.”

He said in 2013, “We'll never change the name. It's that simple. Never — you can use caps."

Let’s take the owner as a man of his word. Never means never. But under pressure from financial backers, Snyder might be knuckling under to calls for change that have become more insistent amid a national movement for racial equality in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and too many others.


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As D.C. Budget Vote Looms, Needs Are Acute For Public Housing Residents

By Eliza Berkon, WAMU, July 3, 2020

On Tuesday, the D.C. Council will vote on a budget proposal that designates some $40 million for public housing repairs over the next two fiscal years. But affordable housing advocates say that’s not nearly enough to revitalize homes that are riddled with health hazards and that put their mostly Black and Brown residents at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus.

“Many of the properties have issues with vermin, dust, lead paint issues, mold, and that directly connects to having health conditions like asthma,” says Doni Crawford, a policy analyst with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, a member of the Fair Budget Coalition. “And those are the underlying conditions that are directly associated with contracting COVID-19.”


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From rent cancellation to tax breaks, D.C. lawmakers face demands for more coronavirus relief

By Alex Koma, Washington Business Journal, July 1, 2020

Has the D.C. Council crumbled under pressure from big landlords in crafting the city’s response to the coronavirus crisis? Or are lawmakers too eager to please tenant advocacy groups at the expense of mom-and-pop property owners?

It depends whom you ask. But the council’s next phase of a coronavirus recovery plans could be shaped by which group can make the more convincing argument.


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Bowser bid to subsidize affordable housing in wealthy D.C. neighborhoods faces council tweaks

By Alex Koma, Washington Business Journal, June 30, 2020

The D.C. Council is tinkering with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s plan to incentivize the construction of affordable housing in the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, with some lawmakers aiming to strengthen affordability requirements and others working to open the program to include many more projects.

The council’s housing committee, chaired by Councilwoman Anita Bonds, D-At large, and its business and economic development committee, chaired by Councilman Kenyan McDuffie, D-Ward 5, are both advancing a series of changes to Bowser’s proposal, which would provide real estate tax abatements for developers building new housing in “high-need areas.” Bowser pitched the measure as part of her 2021 budget proposal, building on her previous efforts to identify a need for more housing in wealthy neighborhoods like Chevy Chase, Foxhall Crescents and Palisades.


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D.C.’s Paid Family Leave Program Gets Final Go-Ahead To Launch July 1

By Rachel Sadon and Colleen Grablick, DCist, June 26, 2020

Paid family and medical leave has crossed its final hurdle in the District.

The city’s chief financial officer has certified that the program, which would give employees of D.C. businesses up to eight weeks of paid parental leave, has enough funding to move forward on July 1.


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D.C.'s paid family leave program to launch July 1

By Alex Koma, Washington Business Journal, June 26, 2020

D.C.’s paid family leave program looks set to launch July 1, meeting the city’s target date even as the coronavirus crisis raised questions about how the policy should move forward.

A spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Employment Services, which is managing the program, confirmed to the Washington Business Journal that the agency is “on track” for the launch Wednesday. Starting that day, District businesses will be required to provide employees with eight weeks of paid time off to care for a new child, six weeks to nurse a sick family member and two weeks to recover from a medical emergency.


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Paid family leave benefits start July 1 in D.C.

From the Office of Councilmember David Grosso, June 26, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso released the following statement regarding the Chief Financial Officer’s certification of sufficient funds to begin the payout of benefits on July 1, 2020 under the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act, which Councilmember Grosso introduced along with Councilmember Elissa Silverman:

“This is monumental. Today’s certification by the CFO finally makes universal paid family leave a reality in the District of Columbia and creates an economy that works for both residents and businesses alike. No longer will working families in D.C. be forced to make the difficult choice between earning a paycheck or caring for a new family member or ailing loved one. Businesses across the District now have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly qualified employees with a progressive benefit that they can offer to every employee  at a fraction of the cost of providing it themselves.

“I want to thank Councilmember Elissa Silverman for her partnership in introducing this bill and her tenacious oversight of its implementation.


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jonetta rose barras: Paging Emmett Fremaux

By Jonetta Rose Barras, The DC Line, June 25, 2020

After listening last week to DC Board of Elections (BOE) chair Michael Bennett and executive director Alice Miller trying to explain the chaotic mess they made of the June 2 primary, I wondered, Where is Emmett H. Fremaux Jr.? The well-regarded Elections Board director from 1983 to 1996 may be the only person who can successfully ensure a well-run November general election.

Before Fremaux arrived in the District, “elections in DC were a national embarrassment,” recalled Dorothy Brizill, co-director of DC Watch, a government watchdog group that has focused for decades on election issues in the city.


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States failed to get absentee ballots to thousands of voters in recent primary elections, signaling problems for November

By Marshall Cohen and Kelly Mena, CNN, June 22, 2020

Washington (CNN) — As Washington, DC's June 2 primary approached, Matthew Miller and Nima Sheth, married professors who live in the District, decided to vote absentee. With elderly, immunocompromised parents at home, plus a 1-year-old baby, it felt like the safest choice in the age of coronavirus.

So, they submitted requests for absentee ballots on the last day of eligibility, a week before the primary. They got a confirmation email from the DC Board of Elections. But Miller's ballot never arrived, and Sheth's ballot was sent to the wrong address.


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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser finds herself in the national spotlight as Trump’s latest foil

By Tracy Wilkinson, The LA Times, June 22, 2020

When President Trump on Saturday used his first political rally in months to attack Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser as an incompetent radical, she was ready to slap back.

Bowser quipped that it seemed she was Trump’s new obsession — “living in his head, and apparently there’s a lot of empty room in there ... just like tonight’s half-empty Tulsa arena.”


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D.C. Election Officials Say They Lost 1,100 Absentee Ballot Requests Ahead Of June 2 Primary

By Martin Austermuhle, DCist, June 19, 2020

At least 1,100 requests for absentee ballots were lost by the D.C. Board of Elections ahead of the city’s June 2 primary, forcing hundreds of voters to cast ballots in-person while others apparently did not vote at all.

The revelation came during a D.C. Council hearing on Friday, where members of the public complained about multiple problems ahead of and during the primary — from missing absentee ballots to hourslong waits at polling places on Election Day — and election officials tried to explain to exasperated lawmakers why things went wrong and how to prevent a repeat during November’s general election.


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DC Council unanimously approves sweeping police reforms in emergency legislation