Bill McColl at 202-216-0035 or Tony Newman at 510-208-7711
The DC Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) formally certified its election results today, officially reporting an overwhelming victory for DC’s “treatment instead of jail” initiative. The BOEE certified the victory of Measure 62, which received a reported 78% of the vote, clearing the way for the District’s Council to transmit the enacted measure to Congress.
If implemented, Measure 62 will require judges to allow eligible non-violent drug defendants to be placed in treatment instead of jail. Defendants charged with Schedule I drug offenses would not be eligible (including heroin, marijuana, and LSD), avoiding a potential conflict with Congress over the “Barr amendment” — a federal law that keeps the District from lowering penalties for Schedule I drugs.
“We are confident that Congress will support the will of DC voters and allow this important initiative to become law,” said Opio Sokoni, Implementation Coordinator for the DC Campaign for Treatment, which sponsored the measure.
Meanwhile, Mayor Anthony Williams is spearheading a campaign to thwart the will of DC voters by attempting to have the law overturned. He and the Corporation Counsel argue that the Measure violates local law by allocating funds to support drug treatment. Under DC law, local initiatives are not permitted to allocate funds. However, proponents argue that Measure 62 is clear about not appropriating money. Court proceedings will begin on January 10.
“We are respectfully requesting that the mayor drop his suit, support the voters’ will, and help us to ensure that Congress does not overturn the will of the people,” said Sokoni.
Last week Superior Court Judge Jeanette J. Clark denied a prior attempt by the mayor to have a Temporary Restraining Order issued against Measure 62, which would have delayed the Board of Elections certification process. Judge Clark did not see any irreparable harm to the District from certification, and said it was not in the public interest to keep the Board from certifying the vote.
“DC voters made it loud and clear that they want a new way of dealing with drug problems in their communities,” said Bill McColl, President of the D.C. Campaign for Treatment. “Measure 62 is crucial to keeping low level drug offenders out of the costly and ineffective prison system, and getting them the help that they need.”
The Measure 62 approval process will now to go the District Council, who will transmit the initiative to Congress. Congress then has 30 working days to let it become law.