EXCLUSIVE: Mike Lawler Introduces Bill To Ban Ranked-Choice Voting In DC

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  • Republican Rep. Mike Lawler of New York has introduced a bill that would ban Washington, D.C., from imposing a ranked-choice voting system, according to a copy obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • The bill would prevent D.C. from imposing the system on local and presidential elections, for which a ballot initiative is underway to do so.
  • “Ranked choice voting in the city violates the principles of democracy – of one person, one vote, one choice,” said Lawler.

Republican Rep. Mike Lawler of New York has introduced a bill to ban the practice of  “ranked-choice voting” in Washington, D.C., which left-wing activists have sought to propose as a ballot initiative in 2024.

A left-wing group, Make All Votes Count D.C., filed a ballot proposal to impose a system of ranked-choice voting in the district, whereby voters would rank all candidates on the ballot for an office according to their preferences, instead of voting for only one candidate under the current system. Lawler’s bill, known as the “District of Columbia One Vote One Choice Act,” would bar the district from this practice and empower the Attorney General to sue D.C. for compliance, according to a copy of the bill that was obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation. (RELATED: DAVID BOSSIE: Ranked-Choice Voting Is Just Another Way Of Letting Elites Tilt The System In Their Favor)

Lawler’s bill would prohibit the practice for all elections held in the District of Columbia, including federal elections. While D.C. does not have congressional representation with voting power, it has three electoral votes in elections for the president of the United States — with the activists’ proposal specifying that presidential elections in D.C. would be conducted by ranked-choice voting, beginning in 2026.

District of Columbia One Vote One Choice Act by Daily Caller News Foundation on Scribd

“The proposed Washington, D.C. ballot initiative to implement ranked choice voting in the city violates the principles of democracy – of one person, one vote, one choice,” said Lawler in a statement obtained by the DCNF. He added that “[r]anked choice voting allows certain Americans to cast multiple ballots for office, unconstitutionally diluting the influence of other voters.”

“It’s no surprise to see another misguided attempt to meddle with The District’s limited autonomy and democracy,” wrote a spokesperson for the Make All Votes Count D.C. campaign in a statement to the DCNF. They added that “Ranked Choice Voting is not a partisan issue and our campaign’s coalition spans the entire political spectrum.  If you really care about one person, one vote: let the people of DC vote on it.”

Lawler’s bill was co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney of New York, who remarked that ranked-choice voting “only leads to more election chaos and confusion,” per a statement the DCNF obtained.

In a ranked-choice election, if no candidate obtains 50% of the vote among voters who ranked him as their first preference, the candidate with the least first preference votes is eliminated, with their second preference votes being distributed among the remaining candidates. This process continues until one candidate obtains a bare majority, at which point they are elected.

Ranked-choice voting is practiced by very few jurisdictions in the United States, with most using the first-past-the-post system, where the candidate who gets the most votes wins an election, even if that amount is less than the majority. Jurisdictions using ranked-choice voting include Alaska, which as of 2020 uses it for all general elections, including presidential elections, and Maine, which uses it for all elections except presidential general elections.

Nevada, Wyoming, Kansas and Hawaii use ranked-choice voting for presidential primaries but not general elections, while Florida, Tennessee, Montana, South Dakota and Idaho have banned the practice statewide for all elections. Lawler’s bill would only preemptively ban the use of the practice in D.C., which is subject to more federal control than the states.

The system has proved controversial among conservatives, particularly following Alaska’s 2022 special election to its at-large House seat, the first under the ranked-choice system. In that election, Democratic candidate Mary Pelolta flipped the seat, which had been held by a Republican since 1973, despite a majority of voters choosing Republican candidates as their first preference.

“[I]n the best of circumstances, RCV runs the risk of disenfranchising voters. If a voter’s chosen candidates have been eliminated in the RCV process, these voters won’t have any say in the final vote,” wrote David Bossie, the president of Citizens United, in an op-ed published by the DCNF.

Even the D.C. Democratic Party has rejected the idea, with the party writing in a statement that “significant concerns prevent us from endorsing this approach,” according to the Washington Informer. They also urged the city council to reject a similar proposal in 2021.

The activists’ ballot proposal must be approved by the D.C. Board of Elections and, then, obtain the signatures of at least 5% of voters in the district in order to get onto the ballot in 2024. Neither of those steps has been completed yet, according to the activists’ website.

The D.C. Board of Elections did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This article has been updated with comment from Make All Votes Count D.C.

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