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The VOICE Amendment Act will bring ranked choice voting to the District

July 14, 2021

For Immediate Release
July 14, 2021
Contact: Amanda Farnan, afarnan@dccouncil.us or (202) 355-8431

Councilmember Christina Henderson introduces the VOICE Amendment Act to bring ranked choice voting to the District of Columbia

Washington DC – Today, Councilmember Christina Henderson along with Councilmembers Charles Allen, Brianne K. Nadeau, Brooke Pinto, Mary M. Cheh, Elissa Silverman and Janeese Lewis George introduced the Voter Ownership, Integrity, Choice, and Equity (VOICE) Amendment Act of 2021. This legislation would introduce ranked choice voting to the District of Columbia for our 2024 elections, with an accompanying public education campaign about the transition.
 
“Ranked choice voting is a system that will allow voters to rank up to five candidates in order of their preference. Data shows RCV better supports women, people of color, and first-time candidates when running for office,” said Councilmember Christina Henderson. “With the unofficial results of New York City’s primary election -- the largest jurisdiction to use RCV -- voters elected the second Black Mayor in the city’s history, the first ever majority female City Council, and an overwhelming number of voters ranked three or more candidates. As DC’s elections become more competitive, it’s time to consider whether a new process for selecting our elected officials is needed.”
 
The VOICE Amendment Act would enable voters to rank up to five candidates for a particular office in order of their preference. If a candidate receives more than half of the first-choice votes, that candidate wins – just like any other election. However, if there is no majority winner after counting first choices, the race is decided by an instant runoff.
 
The benefits of RCV are just as diverse as the candidates who are empowered to run under this system. Candidates are incentivized to campaign positively to appeal to the supporters of other candidates as a backup preference. It reduces fears of vote splitting and the “spoiler effect,” where similarly positioned candidates split a pool of voters and permit a third candidate with less broad appeal to win by plurality. Further, data increasingly shows that in all jurisdictions that use RCV – including New York City, Minneapolis, and San Francisco – voter turnout is modestly increasing, and races are more dynamic and collegial with genuine policy debates supplanting negative campaign tactics.
 
The legislation would also establish a voter education campaign to be conducted by the Board of Elections. The Board of Elections will need to prioritize outreach to seniors and low-turnout precincts as part of its public education efforts. Public input will strengthen this preliminary framework for voter outreach, and we look forward to a robust discussion of how a new model for our elections can elevate diverse candidates, increase voter buy-in to outcomes, and improve candidate discourse. The number of states and cities using RCV nationwide is expected to almost double to 53 by the end of 2022. These jurisdictions will be crucial case studies that will inform our implementation and voter education efforts here in the District.

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