DC Dems’ Lawsuit Says New Voting Reform Could Cause ‘Confusion’ For Black Voters

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Arjun Singh Contributor
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The Democratic Party of the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit on Aug. 1 to block a proposed ballot initiative to institute ranked-choice voting in Washington, D.C., claiming that black voters would be confused by the measure, according to their complaint.

A left-wing group known as “Make All Votes Count D.C.” in May filed a ballot initiative, the Make All Votes Count Act of 2024, that would enact a “ranked-choice voting” system and open primary elections in Washington, D.C. After the initiative was initially approved by the district’s Board of Elections on July 21, the district’s Democratic Party sued the board to block the measure — arguing, among several claims, that it would confuse black voters. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Mike Lawler Introduces Bill To Ban Ranked-Choice Voting In DC)

“In any given election year, the under and overvote in predominately Black wards (7 and 8) is significantly higher than other wards in the District, particularly for the At-Large Councilmember races. Many of those voters report their confusion about selecting more than one candidate for what appears to be the same office,” the D.C. Democrats wrote in their complaint, quoting the party chairman.

D.C. Democratic Party v. Bowser – Plaintiff’s Complaint by Daily Caller News Foundation on Scribd

Currently, D.C. voters select multiple candidates in elections for at-large councilmembers on the D.C. Council, though they do not rank their choices.

Under a ranked-choice voting system, all candidates are initially ranked by the “first-preference” votes they received. If no candidate obtains 50% of the vote outright, the lowest-ranked candidate is then eliminated.

That candidate’s first-preference voters, then, have their votes allocated to their second-preference candidate, with the next lowest-ranked candidate being eliminated — a process that continues until one candidate reaches 50% of the vote, at which point they are elected.

Ranked-choice voting has been adopted in a few jurisdictions across the United States, such as Alaska and Maine for statewide elections. Most, instead, use the “first-past-the-post” system, where the candidate who receives the most votes wins.

Open primary elections would enable voters unaffiliated with a political party to participate in party primary elections, by requesting a primary ballot in advance from the city.

Apart from its legal arguments, the plaintiffs’ lawsuit invoked the memory of the late Democratic Mayor Marion Berry, who remains popular within the city’s black community. “Had the D.C. Board of Elections approved the recent Initiative, Make All Votes Count Act of 2024, as it did on 21 July 2023, Marion Barry may never have been Mayor of the District of Columbia. This is no minor matter,” they wrote.

Even though the proposal has received initial approval, it has not received the requisite number of signatures — 5% of the district’s voters — to appear on the ballot on Nov. 5, 2024, the next election date. If approved, the proposal’s measures would go into effect in the election of 2026.

The suit was filed in the District of Columbia’s Superior Court and names Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser as one of the defendants. The first court date is scheduled for Nov. 3, The Washington Post reported.

“We are confident this lawsuit … is without merit and will be dismissed by the judge,” Make All Votes Count D.C. wrote in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter. “The lawsuit clearly shows that the D.C. Democratic Party wants to suppress the voices of 86,000 independent voters.”

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