DC might follow other cities in ranked voting

A group of D.C. Council members are proposing a change to the District’s voting system that would allow for the ranking of candidates.

At-Large Council member Christina Henderson, along with six of her colleagues, introduced the Voter Ownership, Integrity, Choice and Equity (VOICE) Amendment Act of 2021.

Similar to systems in other cities, such as San Francisco, Minneapolis and New York, voters in D.C. would be able to rank up to five candidates for a particular office starting with the 2024 elections.

A candidate would win an election by securing more than 50% of the vote. But if that threshold is not achieved after counting first-ranked choices, the race would go to an instant runoff.

In a news release announcing their proposal, Henderson said the benefits of ranked choice voting “are just as diverse as the candidates who are empowered to run under this system”

Henderson also believes it will encourage those running for office to campaign more broadly to supporters of other candidates.

The VOICE Amendment Act would also create a voter-education campaign ran by the DC Board of Elections to improve outreach to seniors and low-turnout precincts.

But places such as New York are already thinking about possibly changing things up after utilizing the ranked voting system for the first time during the June primary for mayor.

During a virtual news conference the day before Henderson’s announcement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said they might have to “reassess” ranked choice if evidence is found that the system led to racial and class disparities.

Even with five choices at their disposal, exit polling from New York City’s primary day conducted by Common Cause found 25% of Black voters cast ballots that voted for just one mayoral candidate.

That’s more than double the 10% of ballots cast by white voters that ranked just one candidate.

“What I don’t want to see a system that enfranchises some people and not others,” de Blasio said.

Henderson’s office said the number of states and cities using ranked voting nationwide is expected to almost double to 53 by the end of 2022.

Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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