D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty essentially called in the cavalry last week when he nominated Togo West, a former Secretary of the Army, to lead the city's elections board. The summer recess appointment came after learning that current Chairman Errol Arthur has resigned, effective Aug. 2. Everyone understood the need for swift action. There is a critical election in September, and the D.C. Council earlier this year approved legislation mandating the implementation of an unprecedented number of new reforms, including same-day registration and voting. Not surprisingly, West's nomination received warm endorsements, including from Ward 3's Mary Cheh. Her committee on government operations and the environment oversees the elections board. No sane person would reject such a distinguished nominee. A full council vote is expected soon. But what about Mital Gandhi? His nomination, submitted in April, also deserves immediate attention. The council voted earlier this month at the recommendation of Ward 5's Harry Thomas Jr. to table consideration of Gandhi's nomination -- although Cheh's committee had approved the appointment and presented a resolution recommending the entire legislature does the same. When I asked Cheh if she intended to push for a vote on Gandhi, she said, "we are still trying to sort out" the expiration date for his nomination. That sounds like a "no" to me. By law, the three-member elections board must include a representative of a minority political party. Despite the Democratic Party's dominance in the District, there are other parties. The framers of the city's Constitution understood the importance of full participation and protections for members of all political parties. Gandhi, who is not related to D.C.'s chief financial officer Natwar Gandhi, is a Republican. "This council and council member Mary Cheh are paying politics," asserted Paul D. Craney, executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee. "Every mayor since the beginning of Home Rule has successful nominated and appointed a Republican as a check and balance in the system." In a letter sent Friday to Council Chairman Vincent Gray and other legislators, Gandhi questioned whether his party affiliation has biased the predominantly Democratic legislature. He told me Monday, during a telephone interview, that he had not received a response to his correspondence. "I've proven myself," Gandhi said, citing his background as an international elections observer. Further, he has served for the past three years on the city's alcohol board; he was nominated by Fenty and approved 12 to 1 by the council to that paid post. The elections board job comes without compensation. "The council can't play partisan politics like this so close to an election," Gandhi added. The issue of Gandhi's appointment extends beyond the individual. It's about protecting the basic tenets of democracy. The council's failure to act would mean members of only one party would certify this year's election. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the flaws in that situation The council should act immediately to put a minority party rep on the board. There isn't any reason it shouldn't be Gandhi.

Jonetta Rose Barras's column appears on Monday and Wednesday. She can be contacted at ">Rosebook1@aol.com