Nearly 40 local leaders throughout D.C. penned a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser Tuesday urging her to extend the citywide curfew to give voters more time to cast their ballots.
Bowser implemented a 7 p.m. curfew for Monday and Tuesday in light of the protests against police brutality and racism that turned violent over the weekend. The letter, written by Commissioners Evan Yeats and Erin Palmer of Northeast D.C., states that the curfew will “drive down” turnout and put residents at risk of confrontations with police.
Ward 2 residents are voting to choose a Democratic nominee for the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat, which has been vacant since former Councilmember Jack Evans resigned in January amid an ethics scandal. Ballots that are postmarked Tuesday will still be counted if they are received in the next seven days, according to the D.C. Board of Elections.
Commissioners said in the letter that they support Bowser’s Vote Safe D.C. campaign, which encourages residents to vote by mail to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but they’ve heard that some constituents haven’t received their ballots yet.
“This means a significant number of residents will nonetheless be voting in person tomorrow, in addition to individuals who already planned to vote in person,” the letter states.
A press release from Bowser’s office states that individuals who are out past 7 p.m. to vote before polls close at 8 p.m. are exempt from the curfew. But the commissioners said in the letter that having residents prove to law enforcement that they’re out to vote puts communities of color at risk.
“Especially now, we know that forcing residents to explain to law enforcement officers that they are allowed to be out after curfew because they are voting carries particular risks for communities of color and places a higher burden on essential and service employees
who are still working for us all during the public health emergency,” the letter states.
The letter also states the commissioners are “concerned” about Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham’s statement that both local and federal police will enforce the curfew.
“Delegating curfew enforcement to agencies over which the District has no oversight and that may not be familiar with local laws and regulations is especially troublesome given recent protests and law enforcement actions nationwide,” the letter states.