DC Women in Politics Opposes the Ranked Choice Voting Initiative “Make All Votes Count Act of 2024”


Testimony to District of Columbia Board of Elections

DC Women in Politics (DCWIP), a diverse non-partisan justice advocacy group is disappointed by the reintroduction of the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) proposal under the guise of “Making Every Vote Count.” We find that this initiative is a backdoor effort to establish RCV as the electoral system in the District of Columbia. And was an initiative that was submitted to the Board of Elections on May 14th, 2023.

House GOP also Attempts to Make Voting More Difficult in DC

The District’s election policy is being scrutinized by the House Oversight and Administration committees.

The American Confidence in Elections Act introduced in Congress, which includes provisions that would undo existing D.C. election laws or create additional restrictions, is an attempt to simply alter the way we conduct elections in Washington, DC. The Act will reduce home absentee balloting, reduce the number of ballot boxes, and even attempt to erase “same day registration voting.” Speaker McCarthy earlier this year stated that the Republicans will use DC to make a “national statement.”

Warding off assaults on the District’s Democratic elections is no stranger to our advocacy network. Many of whom took votes within their respective organizations signaling their opposition to this proposal to change DC's voting system.

Review of RCV Initiative Application

DCWIP and other highly respected organizations and professionals researched the RCV Initiative. We collectively determined the RCV Initiative would have an adverse impact and consequences for DC citizens at large. DC voters and those already marginalized by the lack of statehood would be affected. The review also uncovered processes that may be in violation of the Home Rule Charter. Specifically, the section which provides for ranking of second choice votes may in essence, provide for run-off elections.

Violation of Women’s Voting Rights

Since the primary constituencies of DCWIP are women, this Initiative would have a significant impact on the large number of women who are competing for public office. Many DC women are single female heads of households, with low paying jobs with schedules and demands that will not permit them the time to participate in an exhaustive voting process. Women continue to exercise the voting rights guaranteed to them in the 19th Amendment. The complications introduced by the RCV process and the numerous second choices have been proven in other cities to reduce the number of votes for female candidates. Also, seniors tend to have more ballot errors which invalidates their votes. Thus, The Board of Elections should not certify the RCV initiative unless the application is revised.

Open Primary

The initiative also includes the opportunity to change the Partisan Primary Election to an Open Primary Election process. The provision of open primaries must be explained to petition signers. A review of the application does not demonstrate to a petitioner what in an open primary is. Petitioners need to understand what they are signing. They need to understand and have written bullet points providing an explanation of what an “Open Primary” is.  Open Primary in the District Columbia would mean that an Independent, a non-party registered voter will have the right to vote in a partisan party primary.  A person who is a member of the opposite party may vote in a party primary of which they are not a member, in other words, Independents and Republicans have the ability to select a Democratic nominee.

The Home Rule Charter established party primary elections: Democratic party, Republican party, or any other party primary elections. The Rank Choice Voting Initiative stipulates that there will be open primaries instead of closed-party primaries. Therefore, the Initiative as presented would be in violation of the “District of Columbia Home Rule Charter.” The proposed initiative that establishes a hybrid open primary is in violation of the Home Rule Charter. The Board of Election should not approve the RCV application or should require that the open primary provision be removed from the initiative.  

“Make All Votes Count Act of 2024”

The proposed initiative establishes open primaries and RCV which is not clear, and the title, “Make All Votes Count Act of 2024” is misleading and deceptive and does not meet the ethical standards established by the DC Board of Elections. Petitioning of registered voters requires extensive education and a written explanation of how the process works. In the state of Maine, those advocating the adoption of RCV for their state wrote and published a 19-page book of instruction explaining the RCV process. In the District of Columbia, a similar initiative guide will be required to educate voters. Thus, The Board of Elections should not certify the RCV initiative unless the application is revised.

Hopefully the Rank Choice Voting Bill initiative will be curtailed by the Board of Elections. If not, other legal strategies will be considered. The newly formed Voter Protection Collaborative will meet to convene and discuss our next steps and strategies moving forward. Join our efforts! Please click here to assist.

Anita Bellamy Shelton, President
DC Women in Politics