DC-Based Indie Voters are Legally Disenfranchised from City Council Primary

If a Washington, D.C. voter doesn’t interface with a party – specifically the Democratic Party – an unelected board of elections can legally declare that citizen has no right to vote for a municipal council member in the city where the citizen works and lives.

Independent voters in Washington, DC are legally disenfranchised from casting ballots in City Council elections solely on the basis of abstaining from registering allegiance with a party, official documents show.

The District of Columbia’s board of elections voter guide reads, “You can vote a party ballot in the June 19, 2018 primary election if … you are registered with one of the four parties that are eligible to conduct a primary election.”

If you aren't up for playing ball with one of the parties, you have to sit out the election. If you don't wish to interface with the party system, you don't have a vote. 

The four parties listed were Democratic, Republican, Libertarian and D.C. Statehood Green. If you aren’t up for playing ball with one of the parties, you have to sit out the election. If you don’t wish to interface with the party system, you don’t have a vote.

With Democratic-voting strongholds spread all throughout the nation’s capital, competition for city positions often occurs exclusively during the primary process.

Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie reached office in a 2012 special election following the resignation of Harry Thomas Jr., whose political career was cut short by a felony conviction for stealing government funds and lying to the IRS.

McDuffie’s term was up in 2014, when Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners Kathy Henderson and Carolyn C. Steptoe also ran for the Democratic nomination. McDuffie won the primary en route to a General election victory where he secured 89 percent of the vote. McDuffie’s only opponent in the general vote was Libertarian Preston Cornish.

Forced Compliance Problem

The “forced-compliance problem” requires the extra step of registering as a Democrat just to have substantive voting ability in certain cases. This step would not be concerning if it were solely administrative. Ticking the Democrat registration box is a form of political expression that is recorded and used down the line by different campaigns. There is a legalistic gun held to my head that says I have to register Democrat to exercise a substantive right to vote.

If I do this, it makes me a liar since I don’t want to express support for or approval of the Democratic Party. If I don’t register Democrat, I forfeit my right to vote for a city council member. But I can still weigh in on the minimum wage increase issue, Initiative 77.

There is a legalistic gun held to my head that says I have to register Democrat to exercise a substantive right to vote. 

“In the primary election, independent and minority party voters may vote to approve or reject” initiative 77 to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020, the board of elections said. Again, it’s worth emphasizing that the board of elections is an anti-democratic “independent” agency, according to its website.

Substantive voting rights should take precedence over dealing with a party.

The individual’s right to vote is always more important than a political party’s rules and interests. Independents might take note that being forced to register puts an unelected local party between you and the quintessential Americanism to vote freely.

Author’s note: The 50-page “Voter Guide” was mailed to the group house where I live. It arrived in late May. The DC’s BoE does not seem to have a digital version under its “Data, Forms, Reports” section of the website.