On July 14, Washington DC Councilmember Christina Henderson introduced the Voter Ownership, Integrity, Choice, and Equity (VOICE) Amendment Act of 2021 alongside colleagues Charles Allen, Brianne K. Nadeau, Brooke Pinto, Mary M. Cheh, Elissa Silverman, and Janeese Lewis George.
If passed, the VOICE Amendment Act would implement ranked choice voting (RCV) by 2024. Last Wednesday, DC leaders assembled with Rank the Vote DC to share why they believe the VOICE Amendment Act is crucial for the future of DC voting.
Councilmember Henderson started the meeting, explaining that RCV brings more voters to the polls, makes races more competitive, and promotes historically marginalized candidates. She cited the RCV election in NYC that yielded the highest turnout in an NYC mayoral election since the 1980s.
Henderson emphasized that the VOICE Amendment Act includes a comprehensive voter education drive. In the current system, voters can vote for two candidates, although Henderson and colleagues explained this is not widespread knowledge.
“What makes the VOICE Amendment Act different is we require a voter education campaign right off the top to ensure that communities of color, seniors, and areas of the city that don’t often have a high voter turnout have the opportunity to learn more about this new system of voting” - Councilmember Christina Henderson
Jeanne Lewis, a former candidate for DC City Council, echoed Henderson’s points about the VOICE Amendment Act’s robust education plan.
Lewis also explained that in the 2020 general election races, over 70 candidates were running for just 15 seats, meaning there is a severe need for RCV.
Many speakers also emphasized how RCV could bring a genuinely representative electorate to DC.
Deputy Communications Officer of the DC Latino Caucus Jaqueline Castaneda told her story of being from an El Salvadorian family. She explained that there has never been a LatinX city councilmember in DC despite the growing LatinX population, and RCV could change that.
“RCV will help level the playing field so that minority candidates have more room on stage to bring their communities’ concerns to the broader DC electorate. RCV is also an opportunity for us to have a chance to select candidates who will fight for us, empower us, and keep us in mind for our best interest.” - Jaqueline Castaneda
Makia Green of the Working Families Party continued to explain why RCV helps voters and candidates of color and stated that RCV’s values align with the history of fighting for representation in DC.
“The VOICE Amendment Act embraces Black Washingtonian values of freedom, equity, and a true democracy in representation. The VOICE Amendment Act makes us all electable and valid.” - Makia Green
Other advocates explained the need for RCV in DC and pushed for a hearing to debate the VOICE Amendment Act.
“Let’s get a hearing and continue this momentum,” moderator Brianna McGowan said.