City Awards Voting Rights Grant, Takes It Back
This year, the District of Columbia has budgeted $150,000 "to be awarded competitively to one or more organizations with a history of supporting DC voting rights."
Back in January, the Office of the Secretary, charged with running the competition, announced it was taking grant applications. And on Feb. 26, a press release announced that DC Vote would get the money.
No surprise there: DC Vote is the biggest name in local voting-rights advocacy and attracts more private donors than any other group of its ilk. Plus the grant's objective—"to strengthen support for District representation in Congress"—perfectly matches D.C. Vote's embrace of the incrementalist House-first approach.
Yesterday, the secretary's office took the money back, at least temporarily.
A press release noted that the grant was rescinded after discovering "some applications for the Voting Rights Grant monies, which had been submitted prior to the February 15 deadline, had not been delivered to the office due to a technical error." Thus, "[o]ut of an abundance of caution, and to ensure that the grant process is fair to all applicants," the application process was reopened until March 17.
What happened? Sources indicate that several parties had submitted their applications via a Web-based application system. But city tech folks neglected to pass them on to the secretary's office for consideration. The error was discovered after Secretary Stephanie Scott called one expected applicant, Anise Jenkins of Stand Up! for
Democracy, and wondered why she hadn't submitted an application. But she had.
Jenkins and at least three other applicants will now get a fair shot at the city money.
"We're disappointed," says Ilir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote. "We received notice that we'd received the grant, and we informed our board. We celebrated." Alas, Zherka and his board will have to wait and see now. But he's confident that DC Vote, with its high-powered board of directors and its goal of raising nearly $1 million in private funds, will triumph in Round 2.
The rebid is also good news for Shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown, who submitted an application on behalf of his new nonprofit, Teach Democracy D.C. The organization aims to help teachers integrate D.C. voting rights into social-studies lesson plans, and it has had some success of late, Brown says—this week, he helped convince a Missouri teacher to take some 60 kids to the state legislature to stump for a pro-D.C. voting rights resolution.
But he could use some extra money. Brown says he got his application in, and it was rejected. He'd asked for the full $150,000, but he's now having second thoughts for the rebid.
"Maybe I'll pare it down a little bit. Maybe asking for the whole nut isn't the right way to go," Brown says. "Now we have a little feedback, don't we?"