BEFORE MEMORIES of last week’s D.C. election fade, city officials should commit to look at ways to improve the electoral process before the next campaign cycle kicks in.
Tops on the list should be the consideration of legislation languishing in the D.C. Council that would fix the problems of multi-candidate elections by establishing instant-runoff voting. The system allows voters to select candidates in order of preference, and its need was underscored by several contests in which the winners received far less than a majority of votes. It’s not good for government or democracy when candidates are able to squeak into public office with — as was the case last Tuesday — 37 percent or 24 percent or 12 percent of the vote.
A bill introduced this year by council member David Grosso (I-At Large) would provide a method of casting and tabulating votes under which voters would rank candidates; candidates with the fewest votes would be eliminated. The measure, modeled after systems used successfully across the country, would have other advantages. Voters afraid that their first choice can’t win could vote for that candidate, knowing they wouldn’t be throwing away their vote because they would still have the ability to influence the election’s outcome. It’s been the experience of those seeking office under ranked voting that there is less negative campaigning, because saying something negative about a voter’s first choice lessens the chance of becoming that voter’s second choice.
Another bill introduced by Mr. Grosso to provide for open primaries is also worthy of examination. The mayoral election was refreshing in that it represented a rare opportunity for voters of every stripe — not just those registered as Democrats — to have a say. Opening primaries would engage more voters in the process.
And deserving attention is the operation of the elections office; its performance in the general election was greatly improved from its dismal primary efforts, but even this time the board managed to publish almost no results for more than two hours after polls closed. It’s clear there is still room for improvement.