Democracy Dies in Darkness

Letters to the Editor | Opinion

What’s an acceptable D.C. voter turnout?

July 10, 2018 at 5:43 PM

D.C. residents vote at the Goodwill Baptist Church in Adams Morgan on June 19. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)

Chris Byrd’s July 8 Local Opinions essay, “No wonder D.C. voters are apathetic,” brought up interesting questions. When reflecting on the 55 percent voter approval of Initiative 77 the day after the primary, D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) was quoted in the June 21 news article “Wage battle goes to council” as saying, “It’s not really the will of the people; it happens to be the will of the 17 percent of people who showed up and voted. It’s really up to the council to act in the best interests of the city.”

If that’s the case, should it not reasonably follow that D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser is not the Democratic nominee for mayor because of the low voter turnout? The same goes for D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson’s (D) nomination for another term.

I found it quite troubling to read Mr. Evans’s condescendingly paternalistic assertion that because so few of the eligible voters cast their ballots, “It’s really up to the council to act in the best interests of the city.”

Has he forgotten the District’s justifiable anger when Congress overrides decisions made by D.C. voters? If D.C. Council members feel that the low-percentage voter turnout did not accurately reflect the will of the people, what threshold would they find acceptable? Thirty percent? Forty? Or would it require a landslide voter tally exceeding 50 percent?

Tom Pack, Washington

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