D.C. Redistricting and the Choice Voting Solution

Washington, D.C. should consider enacting choice voting because it would:

  1. Give a voice to every individual living in a ward dominated by a majority with which they disagree. That majority could still elect its choice, but CV lets those in the minority coalesce with others across D.C. to have their say.
  2. End the splicing and dicing of communities by allowing residents to essentially define their own districts based on shared interests and concerns, including those tied to geogaphy.
  3. Make the decennial drama of redistricting a thing of the past.
  4. Solve the problems arising from the arcane, bureaucratic hierarchy that makes ward representatives like emperors of their own domains, a phenomenon encapsulated by Greater Greater Washington.
  5. Truly honor the ideas behind the principle of "one person, one vote."
  6. Generate greater diversity of thought in local government while avoiding polarization by incentivizing politicians to build bridges and reach beyond their respective bases.
  7. Reduce the amount of negative campaigning and rev up discussion of the real issues facing D.C.

How Choice Voting could be implemented in D.C.

The D.C. Council currently consists of 1 chairperson elected by the District at-large, 4 at-large members serving staggered four-year terms, and 8 ward representatives.

One option would be to elect all of the latter 12 councilmembers by choice voting while retaining the traditional at-large method of electing the chairperson. They could serve staggered 4-year terms so that every other year, six seats would be up for re-election.

Candidates for the six seats would all run in a single citywide race that is different from the traditional at-large method because each voter ultimately casts one vote (as opposed to six), which avoids the problems that led to the demise of traditional at-large elections across the country.

Voters simply rank candidates in order of preference, putting a "1" by their first choice, a "2" by their second choice and so on. Voters can rank as few or as many candidates as they wish, knowing that a lower choice will never count against the chances of a higher choice.

To win, candidates need an exact number of votes called a "threshold." In this six-seat race, the threshold would be roughly 14.3% of votes. After counting first choices, candidates with the winning threshold are elected.

To maximize the number of voters who help elect someone, "surplus" ballots beyond the threshold are transferred to remaining candidates according to voter preferenc. In the most precise method, every ballot is transferred at an equally reduced value. For example, if a candidate received 28.6% of first-choioce votes, half of each first-choice vote for her would be transferred in accordance with each voter's next-choice preferences.

After transferring surplus ballots until no remaining candidate has obtained the winning threshold, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. All of his/her ballots are distributed among remaining candidates according to voters' next-choice preferences. This process continues until all seats are filled.