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DC Democrats Sue to Preserve Independent Voter Suppression

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Created: 15 August, 2023
Updated: 22 August, 2023
3 min read

Photo Credit: Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash

 

Not long after the District of Columbia’s Board of Elections unanimously determined that the subject matter of a ranked choice voting and open primaries initiative was appropriate for the 2024 ballot, Democrats filed a lawsuit to prevent voters from weighing in on the matter.

Ballot Initiative 83, which would adopt a semi-open primary for city elections that gives independent voters a chance to pick a party’s ballot in the taxpayer-funded elections along with ranked choice voting for all city elections, is still in the early stages of making it on the ballot.

If approved by voters, the initiative would extend equal and meaningful voting rights to more than 80,000 voters in DC registered “unaffiliated” starting in 2026.

“I’m thrilled to be part of the local grassroots campaign to advocate for ending voter suppression by opening primary elections to independent voters like me and bringing ranked choice voting to my hometown, to make our elections fairer and hold politicians accountable to us all,” said Lisa Rice, who proposed the ballot initiative. 

Rice and Make All Votes Count DC, the leading organizers of Ballot Initiative 83, have a long road ahead of them, but the DC Democratic Party didn’t waste time turning to the courts to erect a permanent roadblock.

“The DC Democratic Party is so committed to preventing DC voters from deciding on these reforms for themselves, that is, being able to decide on the future of DC’s electoral process, they have filed a lawsuit that is not ripe, has no merit, and, we believe, will ultimately fail,” Rice told the Washington Post. .

“From the Supreme Court to the DC Superior Court, Initiative 83 is grounded in sound case law. This lawsuit clearly shows that the DC Democratic Party wants to suppress the voices of 86,000 independent voters in the District of Columbia and prevent all DC voters from electing candidates that receive at least 50% of the vote. We believe that DC voters should decide the future of our electoral process, not the courts.”

Both major parties oppose open primary reform in the city. The chair of the DC Democratic Party, Charles Wilson, has publicly stated that reforming primaries “would undermine the partisan nature of elections and dilute the voices of members of the party.”

Or, would it even the playing field for all voters? The current system gives party members disproportionate power over electoral outcomes, while diluting the voting power and say of voters who choose to register outside the Republican and Democratic Parties.

Both parties also oppose ranked choice voting, and make the same argument as Republicans in Maine and Democrats in NYC that it is confusing for voters to understand, despite evidence to the contrary

On the matter, D.C. Republican Committee Chair Patrick Mara, said in a statement that adding RCV and open primaries would be "an embarrassment to the District of Columbia elections.”

 “Until we have much cleaner voter rolls and strong, reliable voting systems, we should not experiment with voting, particularly when people from all parties question the reliability and fairness of our elections administration,” he added.

The irony is that while he says voters question the fairness and reliability of elections, he advocates for preserving the status quo, while ignoring that many voters question the current system because of the partisanship in the structure and administration of elections.

A hearing for the lawsuit against Ballot Initiative 83 is set for November.

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