City Cast

Local Civics: DC Election Changes

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on May 25   |   Updated on June 5
Ballot drop box outside the Petworth Library. (Kaela Cote-Stemmermann/City Cast DC)

Ballot drop box outside the Petworth Library. (Kaela Cote-Stemmermann/City Cast DC)

A new initiative could dramatically change how we vote, and who votes when, in the District. The initiative’s organizing group, Make All Votes Count DC, filed the proposal with the D.C. Board of Elections last week.

There are two major changes on the table:

  • Independent voters: The initiative would allow 85,000 voters who are unaffiliated with a political party to still vote in the partisan primary of their choice. Right now, if you aren’t officially registered with a political party, you can’t participate, which some see as a form of voter suppression.
  • Ranked choice voting: It could change how votes in D.C.’s elections are tallied starting in 2026. Ranked choice voting lets voters rank candidates in order of preference. So, if no one wins the majority, the bottom contender is dropped and votes are recalculated using voters’ next choice. It keeps going until there’s a candidate with a majority of votes. The hope is this will encourage voters to choose the candidates they really support, rather than just the ones they think will win.

Behind the headlines: Ranked choice voting was previously introduced in 2021 but was shot down by the D.C. Democratic State Committee who said it was too confusing. It said that in New York, this system perpetuated inequality because voters in rich neighborhoods used all their available votes, while those in lower-income areas didn’t. The initiative’s proponents say this criticism is “insulting and is a fear tactic.”

What’s next?  To move forward, the campaign will have to get signatures from 5% of D.C.’s registered voters, in at least five of the eight wards. Then, all voters would get to weigh in during the 2024 general election.

What do you think of this initiative? Should D.C. have ranked choice voting?

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