Why Isn’t Bernie Sanders on the D.C. Ballot?

So far, the 2016 election cycle has been awash with the type of drama more reminiscent of a middle school student government campaign than a national presidential election.  Candidates have vacillated between name calling, accusations of corruption, and the silent treatment, all the while claiming that the other person started it.  So, in the midst of all of this, the rumors that insurgent Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has been left off the D.C. primary ballot should come as no surprise.  But before anyone out there becomes too concerned, let’s unpack this situation.

In order to get on the ballot in Washington D.C., candidates are required to do one of two things: either 1) submit a petition with at least 1,000 signatures of D.C. residents asking to include the candidate on the ballot or 2) buy a spot on the ballot with a $2,500 dollar donation to the D.C. Democratic State Committee. Sanders decided to purchase a spot on the ballot to avoid the hassle of collecting signatures.

The Sanders campaign submitted a check to the powers-that-be at 3PM on March 16th, the deadline to do so, according to The Washington Post.  So, no problem, right?  Well, unfortunately for Sanders, his name wasn’t forwarded to the D.C. Board of Elections until 1:31PM on March 17th.

It’s understandable that supporters of Senator Sanders could see this as an attempt to keep their candidate off of the ballot and one step further behind Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton; but it’s not quite that simple.  According to D.C. Democratic Party chairwoman Anita Bonds, “This has been kind of a tradition in the District of Columbia, that the party would notify the board the following day.”  Apparently, according to Bonds, the deadline for submissions is after the Board of Elections closes, so she has always instructed her staffers to wait until the next day to send in the applications.  The only difference this time was that a D.C. Democratic activist challenged Sanders.

Bonds, who also serves as a member of the D.C. City Council, vowed that she would submit a clarification in the city guidelines that would make the 24-hour grace period official, thereby putting Sanders’ name on the ballot.  “Bernie will be on the ballot,” she told CNN yesterday. The Sanders campaign has also expressed confidence that he will be included in the primary.  “We did what the D.C. law requires in order to get Bernie on the ballot and we are confident he will be on the ballot,” said communications director Michael Briggs.

So, although it might take a little statutory maneuvering, D.C. supporters of Mr. Sanders should be able to make their voice heard when the District holds its primary on Flag Day, June 14th.