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News Release
From D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics

November 3, 1998
Contact: Kenneth McGhie, 727-2194

CONGRESS PROHIBITS D.C. BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND ETHICS
FROM ANNOUNCING VOTE RESULTS OF
INITIATIVE MEASURE NO.  59
 
Under pressure and mandate from Congress, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics today announced that the Board will not release the vote results of Initiative Measure No. 59, "Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998".  D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics Chairman Benjamin F. Wilson stated that "a recent statute passed by Congress precludes the expenditure of any appropriated funds for Initiative Measure No.  59."

On October 21, 1998, Congress passed the District of Columbia Appropriations Act, 1999 which provides that "[n]one of the funds contained in this Act may be used to conduct any ballot initiative which seeks to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802) or any tetrahydrocannabinols [THC] derivative."

"Initiative Measure No. 59 had been made a part of the ballot prior to the passage of the D.C. Appropriations Act, 1999," Wilson stated.  "Prior to the Congressional mandate, absentee ballots had already been made available to voters.  Therefore, it was physically impossible as well as financially impracticable for the Board to reprint and issue new ballots without including the text of Initiative No. 59.  While the votes on Initiative Measure No. 59 will be counted, the Board has been instructed by Congress that the D.C. Appropriations Act, 1999 prevents the Board from making the results of the tabulation available to the  public.

Currently, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit which seeks to require the Board to certify the election results for Initiative Measure No. 59.  The Board is in the process of seeking a declaratory judgment as to whether it must abide by the First Amendment to insure the free speech rights of District of Columbia citizens are protected or whether it must follow the prohibition against conducting a ballot initiative which seeks to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

"The Board will comply with the order of the Court at the appropriate time," Wilson explained.  "Ever mindful of its primary role of insuring a fair and honest election, the Board is reluctant to enter into a political dispute with Congress."  Wilson concluded, "However, the Board must have direction from the Court with respect to its duties under the law relating to further processing of Initiative Measure No. 59."
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