Voters at the polls in New York City on October 24, 2020.
Ed Lefkowicz/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
The DC Democratic Party is trying to stop an effort to implement ranked choice voting in the city.
They argued in a lawsuit that low-income and Black voters would be confused by the system.
Organizers hope to put the system up to a vote in November 2024.
In a lawsuit filed earlier this month seeking to block ranked choice voting in Washington, DC, the local Democratic Party argued that implementing the system would be particularly confusing for voters in predominantly Black areas.
The 33-page lawsuit filed in DC Superior Court by the District of Columbia Democratic Party argues that implementing the voting system would violate the DC Human Rights Act, a portion of local law prohibiting discrimination.
In the complaint, the local party and its chair Charles Wilson pointed to voting patterns in Wards 7 and 8, which encompass predominantly-Black communities east of the Anacostia River.
The lawsuit notes that in elections for at-large seats on the DC city council — where voters can currently choose two candidates — voters in Wards 7 and 8 are less likely to cast a second vote, a phenomenon known as “undervoting.”
“Many of those voters report their confusion about selecting more than one candidate for what appears to be the same office,” said Wilson in the lawsuit, arguing that implementing ranked-choice voting “would introduce an additional layer of confusion to the electorate.”
“I have a similar concern for seniors and persons with disabilities,” Wilson added.
The relevant portion of the local Democratic party’s lawsuit.
Superior Court of the District of Columbia
The lawsuit was first reported this week by DCist. The initiative, known as the “Make All Votes Count Act,” would also allow independent voters in the District to vote in either party’s primary elections. Supporters of the initiative must still gather enough signatures to put the issue before voters in November 2024. The system would then go into effect with the 2026 election.
Ranked choice voting allows voters to rank multiple candidates for office, creating a system in which voters can choose not just their first choice for the job, but several other candidates who they’d like to see win.
Under the system, the lowest-performing candidates are sequentially eliminated and their votes are redistributed to other candidates based on voters’ rankings. This continues until one candidate exceeds 50% of the vote.
It’s been implemented in federal and state elections in both Maine and Alaska, where it arguably helped Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola pull out a victory last year and contributed to the smooth re-election of Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Nationally, opposition to the system has mostly come from Republicans, especially after the results in Alaska.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy trashed the system during a podcast appearance with Donald Trump Jr. in January.
“Someone could get the most votes, and not win!” McCarthy said at the time.. “So if you come in 3rd, you win. What? ‘I got a lot of second votes, I got a lot of 3rd vote — what does that mean?'”
And Republican Rep. Mike Lawler of New York recently introduced a bill to block the implementation of ranked-choice voting in Washington, DC.
“I agree with DC Democrats on this,” Lawler wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.