Pandemic-era changes to DC voting might soon become permanent

Voting by mail may be here to stay in the District, if new legislation introduced by the city council goes through.

The Elections Modernization Amendment Act of 2021, sponsored by Ward 6 council member Charles Allen and co-sponsored by six other members, would make permanent many voting changes implemented during the pandemic.

Allen said it was easier to vote during the pandemic and he wants it to be just as easy going forward. The idea is to allow every registered D.C. voter the option of voting by mail — each would receive a postage paid ballot and be provided with tracking updates.

The new bill would expand the number ballot drop boxes throughout the city to 100 during early voting and on Election Day, and establish vote centers where eligible voters can cast a ballot early.

It would also recognize Election Day as a public school holiday, with the aim of enabling better access to polling places and teaching children about the importance of voting.

“There are times when necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s exactly what we saw when a pandemic and a general election collided,” Allen said in a news release.

“D.C. held a safe, secure, and accessible election by making it easier to vote and safe to vote from home. These are common sense and popular changes we need to make a permanent part of our elections moving forward. In doing so, we will broaden the number of people who are able to participate in our elections and feel more invested in their government.”

The bill still has to go through a couple of steps before being sent to Mayor Muriel Bowser for approval. The District’s next election is in June 2022, when voters will nominate candidates for the mayoral election set later next year.

WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez contributed to this story.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin is an anchor/reporter for WTOP. She started her career in New York City as a local TV reporter and has since covered foreign affairs and national politics as a Washington correspondent. She also anchored a nightly news show for an international network.

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