My vote is meaningless — not in the sense that everyone’s individual ballot drowns in a sea of others’, unlikely to make a significant difference in any given race, but in the sense that various government policies make my voice even less significant than that, because I live in Washington, D.C. and refuse to align myself with a political party.
At no time is this feeling worse than on primary day in the District. Campaign signs cover the city, each an infuriating reminder that nearly a fifth of Washington’s voters — those of us registered without a party affiliation — will not be participating in the only local poll that typically matters. Washington is a Democratic town — 75 percent of registered voters are Democrats — and the closed Democratic primary is usually the final choice in who runs the city.
True, this year may see a credible independent mayoral campaign from Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large). But, if that even happens, it is such an unusual exception that it proves the rule. I know many people who registered as Democrats exclusively to ensure they can vote in local elections that matter. I haven’t done that because I write about Congress, the presidency and federal elections; I don’t want to be aligned. And no one should have to be to participate reasonably in their local government.
The District’s method for conducting its elections is not as outrageous as the fact that the city’s voters don’t get representation in Congress at all. That’s an obvious affront to this country’s founding principles. But the city’s election policy is still a poor fit with the reality of its people, and it, too, distorts the process. It all adds up to mine being among the least represented votes in the country.
There are ways to make the system better. At-large Councilmember David Grosso (I) has proposed a reform package, including a runoff system with ranked choices, on which we recently editorialized. Or the District could move to non-partisan municipal elections, as so many other cities — including Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio and Dallas — have. In Washington, two Democrats would typically advance from a crowded field of primary contenders into the final election. At both stages, everyone would have a say, without altering the deep-blue character of the city.