. . . In the District, a Virtual Shutout

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Now that the District has selected its next mayor, D.C. Council president and new council members, isn't it time for the District to end its partial democracy?

For our government leaders to have true legitimacy, all voters should be able to participate in the election that actually selects them.

Yes, I know that all that has legally occurred so far is the naming of the Democratic Party nominees for these positions, but the mayoral nominee is already acting as if he has been elected, and Las Vegas bookmakers would give you very handsome odds if you wished to bet against these nominees taking office in January.

For District voters, the September Democratic primary is the election that matters, but one-fourth of D.C. voters are excluded from the election process -- because the District's closed primary system allows only voters registered as Democrats to vote to choose the party's nominees in the primary.

While it is true that those voters registered as independents, Republicans and D.C. Statehood Green Party members could register as Democrats, for many of them this is not a reasonable solution. Furthermore, many federal government employees, judicial officials and others do not believe they should take public partisan positions, which registering with any party would require them to do.

Is there a Republican way to collect trash? A Democratic way to fill potholes? If there is, I missed that in all of the debates I've watched over the years.

All voters in the District should be allowed to participate fully in the selection of their leaders. Other jurisdictions have found ways to do this.

In Virginia, any qualified, registered voter can vote in either party's primary.

In my native state, Wisconsin, which I left 36 years ago, all municipal officials are elected in a nonpartisan general election open to all voters, in the same manner the District elects its school board. The only difference being that, if there are more than two candidates, there is a primary to select the two finalists for each office.

Louisiana elects its officials, including governor and members of Congress, on a single ballot with the candidates' party affiliation noted. If no one receives a majority, there is a runoff.

Besides Virginia and Wisconsin, 17 states have open primaries in which a voter decides which party's primary he or she wants to vote in.

There are various means to grant open, meaningful participation in the District's elections to all voters. If we D.C. residents are asking for full democracy in Congress, shouldn't we also grant full democracy to District voters?


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