Chris Otten is a former elected advisory neighborhood commissioner, a 2006 mayoral candidate and longtime resident of Ward 1.
In the June 19 D.C. Democratic primary, all incumbents won, as they usually do. But in Ward 1, the incumbent, Brianne Nadeau, did not win the majority; out out of a more than 60,000 registered voters in that ward, she captured only 5,263 votes.
The total of the votes by her three primary challengers surpassed her votes by about 500 votes, or 4 percent of the Ward 1 voters who participated.
Low voter turnout and substantially split voting such as that found in the 2018 Ward 1 primary furthers the case for ranked-choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting.
Instant-runoff-voting legislation was introduced by At-Large Council member David Grosso (I) in 2014 and again in 2017. Without explanation, Grosso and his colleagues have let this important bill languish in committee and haven’t championed it during the election seasons over the past several years.
A simple rationalization for the lack of action on instant-runoff voting in the District is that a bill can gain advocacy applause at the time of introduction, but letting it slide in committee is ultimately to the benefit of incumbents.
A review of the latest Ward 1 primary race proves this true, and Grosso echoes this in his statements that belie the instant-runoff voting legislation:
The potential benefits to the District through instant runoff voting [Ranked Choice Voting] are immense. We can expect higher voter turnout – as voters will be free to mark their ballot for the candidate they truly prefer without fear that their choice will help elect their least preferred candidate. We can expect positive and more widespread campaigning – since candidates will not only be seeking to be a voters first choice but all will be asking to receive the voter’s second-choice and third-choice.
The D.C. Council must move soon on ranked-choice or instant-runoff voting if its wants to excitement to boost pitiful D.C. voter participation and to make the races with multiple candidates a fairer democratic process.