By Nikita Paudel
Picture this: a political landscape where every vote counts, where independent voices are no longer silenced, and where a fairer, more inclusive electoral system is the law. This concept is rapidly gaining momentum across the United States, and it has now set its sights on the nation’s capital: Washington DC. The Make All Votes Count Act of 2024, spearheaded by Make All Votes Count DC, is paving the way for a transformation in the way primary elections are conducted and votes are tallied.
At present, primary elections in Washington DC lock out a significant portion of the electorate – those who have chosen not to align themselves with any political party. Thousands of voters find themselves sidelined, their voices muted by an outdated system that restricts participation. Enter the Make All Votes Count Act of 2024, a ballot initiative designed to usher in ranked-choice voting and put an end to voter disenfranchisement. With a staggering 80,000 independent voters, comprising approximately 16% of the city’s electorate, this initiative holds the potential to change the game in DC politics.
By allowing voters to rank the candidates in order of preference, this system empowers individuals to express their nuanced opinions and avoid the dreaded “wasted vote” dilemma. Under the proposed initiative, independent voters would finally have the opportunity to request a ballot for a party of their choice during primary elections, reclaiming their place in the democratic process.
The power of ranked-choice voting has been a hot topic of conversation in the wake of the highly contested 2020 elections, where a staggering 23 candidates vied for just two at-large seats on the DC council. The DC council considered similar legislation last year, which initially garnered a hearing but ultimately fell short of securing a vote. Now, with the Make All Votes Count Act in motion, the stage is set for a voting revolution.
Of course, no initiative comes without its hurdles to overcome. For the Make All Votes Count Act to progress, the Board of Elections must determine its constitutionality, its appropriateness as a subject of legislation, and crucially, that it doesn’t require additional funds. Furthermore, Make All Votes Count DC faces the arduous task of rallying support from a minimum of 5% of registered voters – 25,000 signatures – spread across the city’s eight wards. The organizers behind this movement are determined to make their mark on the 2024 ballot.
The momentum for ranked-choice voting is undeniable, with states and cities nationwide already embracing this system. From the bustling streets of New York City to the vast landscapes of Alaska, the power of ranked-choice voting is sweeping the nation. Now, Washington DC is poised to join this group, standing at the precipice of a new era of fair and inclusive elections.
The time has come for every voice to be heard, for every vote to count, and for the people of Washington DC to reclaim their power. With the Make All Votes Count Act leading the charge, the city’s electoral landscape is set to undergo a shift, forever altering the way candidates are selected and votes are tallied. Come 2026, ranked-choice voting advocates are hopeful that every registered voter has the ability to participate in the primaries and make conscious, ranked decisions for their candidates in all their elections.
Nikita Paudel is a digital and grassroots organizer intern at Rank the Vote. She is a rising junior at Yale University majoring in Global Affairs.
Austermuhle, Martin. “Ballot Measure Would Bring Ranked-Choice Voting To DC.” DCist, 18 May 2023, https://dcist.com/story/23/05/18/dc-ballot-measure-ranked-choice-voting-open-primaries/. Accessed 22 May 2023.
Brice-Saddler, Michael, and Meagan Flynn. “.” . – YouTube, 7 May 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2023/05/18/dc-ranked-choice-ballot-initiative-open-primary. Accessed 22 May 2023.
Koma, Alex. “Ballot Initiative Could Bring Ranked Choice Voting to D.C. – WCP.” Washington City Paper, 18 May 2023, https://washingtoncitypaper.com/article/605643/a-new-ballot-initiative-could-bring-ranked-choice-voting-and-open-primaries-to-d-c-expect-a-big-fight/. Accessed 22 May 2023.
Lukert, Luke. “Ballot initiative may bring major changes to DC voting.” WTOP, 20 May 2023, https://wtop.com/dc/2023/05/ballot-initiative-may-bring-major-changes-to-dc-voting/. Accessed 22 May 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Rank the Vote, its members, supporters, funders, or affiliates.