Rethinking (some of) the DC local elections process: starting with eliminating the primary altogether
I have a bunch of past posts about DC's political and governance structures and ideas and frameworks for "reform," including "DC special election redux: Part 2."
A few weeks back the Post editorialized again ("Three ways DC can improve the electoral process for voters") in favor of ranked choice voting, where within the balloting process voters rank candidates rather than only voting for one candidate.
Separately, the City Council is considering legislation to separate the local elections process from the national elections, so that the city could go back to having a September primary.
In response to federal election requirements, a few years ago the city shifted to an April primary, which is too early and favors incumbents (see "DC primary elections"). This has been the subject of a great deal of criticism, mostly which has been ignored, until very recently.
Now I have a new/re-codified set of proposals, starting with a stunner:
1. Why even have a primary election for local offices? Just have the vote simultaneous with the general election for federal offices. (Since DC is so small.)
Since the Democratic Party dominates local elections, getting the nomination in the primary is the major element to winning office ("tantamount to victory") in local elections. But many people complain that shuts out many voters out of the process and is highly oligarchical and static. But if DC elections are the equivalent of Snow White and the seven dwarfs anyway, because of the overwhelming dominance of the Democratic Party, is a primary even necessary?
2. Just let all candidates run on one ballot (without a primary), with multiple candidates from each party if candidates are so inclined and able to meet the petition requirements to get on the ballot.
Very briefly, Pierce County, Washington had ranked choice voting for local elections. Left is a graphic outlining the process which appeared in the Tacoma News-Tribune in November, 2008. Used with permission.
3. And rather than having a runoff if no one candidate garners more than 50% of the vote, use ranked choice voting to determine the final results.
Previously I argued in favor of runoff elections ("DC needs to add a runoff element to the elections process"), but since runoffs are somewhat anti-populist, it makes more sense to just have one election, DC being so small.
4. While authorizing "electoral fusion" or candidates running with multiple party affiliations ("Legalizing electoral fusion as another election improvement").
This is how it is done in New York State, where parties like the Conservatives, Liberals, and Working Families possess the ability to shape the election agenda, because candidates come looking to those parties for a secondary endorsement, which can make the difference between electoral success and failure.
5. While at the same time, shift special elections to a mail ballot, to reduce costs, although with one early voting location for the entire ward (like how the city runs early voting processes now) where people can still vote in person.
Since it costs at least $300,000 to run a special election, this would save a bit of money.
Labels: elections and campaigns