State of Elections

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Category: Washington D.C. (page 1 of 2)

Democracy in the District: What is the Strength of the Franchise?

By: Evan Tucker

What is the strength of the franchise in America? The franchise is the device by which members of a democracy elect those who govern. The franchise’s strength, thus, is at its strongest when citizens cast votes freely and a candidate is duly elected. Conversely, the franchise is at its weakest when it is adversely affected by some entity, intending to weaken the effect of the franchise (e.g. gerrymandering or substantial changes to election type/voting procedures). The franchise in the District of Columbia is somewhere in between. There, the franchise is not weakened by intentional actions taken by the government, but instead by constitutional defect. Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution assigns to Congress the plenary power to legislate in the District. Citizens of the District, however, do not have voting members in either house of Congress. Most recognize this democratic tension as “taxation without representation,” which was one of the basis for America’s split with Britain. But the story is not that simple.

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Breaking Down the Barriers to Automatic Voter Registration in Washington D.C.

 

By: Mary Boothe

In May 2015, The Automatic Voter Registration Amendment Act was introduced to the D.C. Council by council members Charles Allen, Brianne Nadeau, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, Elissa Silverman, and Anita Bonds, and former at-large council member Vincent Orange, and co-sponsored by at-large council member David Grosso.  The bill has since unanimously passed the D.C. Council. However, to become a law it still needs to be signed by the mayor, Muriel Bowser, and sent for a 30-day review on Capitol Hill. Allowing automatic voter registration will still be a landmark move that will ease the burden of registration for the thousands of eligible D.C. voters.

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Disenfranchised Citizens (D.C.): Over 670,000 Left Speechless

By: Mary Boothe

November is coming fast, and with it, a much anticipated election season. But, while many voters around the nation are looking forward to the opportunity to effect change at the presidential, congressional, and local levels, D.C. residents are looking forward to possibly changing their (lack of) statehood status in order to gain an equally representative voice within the federal government.

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Shifting Racial Make-Up of D.C

By: Randolph Critzer

Few places in the United States can offer a snapshot of American politics quite like Washington D.C. There are over 650,000 people living in the District, which serves not only as the focal point of our federal system, but also as the local and pseudo-state level government for its many residents.

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District of Cannabis: Legislative Tampering in the Nation’s Capital

By: Randolph Critzer

The nation watched last November as the District of Columbia passed an ordinance legalizing marijuana for private use. The ordinance, passed by referendum, was voted into effect on November 4th, 2014, and went into effect this past February. This creates a bit of a confusing situation for D.C., which, unlike the other 4 jurisdictions that have legalized the drug, still sits at the end of Congress’s leash.

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Recap: Rethinking DC Representation in Congress

By Allison Davis, Reporter.

William & Mary’s Election Law Program and DC Vote co-hosted a symposium on Rethinking DC Representation in Congress on February 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. The symposium impaneled several highly regarded Constitutional law experts and voting rights advocates. Continue reading

Standing Aside, D.C. Federal Court May Have to Determine What “After January 1, 2014” Means in D.C. Attorney General Election

by Brad Tobias, Contributor

When asked, many District of Columbia residents will be quick to point out that the district is not a state, and is subject to the control of Congress, per the U.S. Constitution. The slogan “Taxation without Representation” adorns the city’s vehicle license plates, and it is an issue which fires up many residing in the “202”. While the merits of this question are actively debated, they are not the subject of this modest post. However, one particular consequence of constitutionally-mandated Congressional control over the district is that many laws passed by the D.C. Council, the district’s elected rulemaking body, are subject to congressional approval before they take effect.  While almost all D.C. legislation is approved by Congress – in fact, in the past 40 years Congress has only vetoed D.C. legislation 3 times – there is a congressional review period, and thus a wait-time, of 30 legislative days before D.C. legislation may be approved. This wait time can be critical, especially when elections and election cycles are fixed dates by law. Continue reading

Ethics Tightened on D.C. Government

by Andy McCoy, Contributor

Voters in Washington, DC recently enacted three charter amendments relating to ethicsAmendment V, which passed with 85% support, would allow the DC Council to expel a member by a 5/6 vote if the Council could demonstrate a gross failure to meet the highest standards of conduct.  Amendments VI and VII, which both passed with over 75% support, would disqualify felons from holding a Council seat or the Mayor’s office.  Amendments VI and VII are both limited in scope as they only disqualify individuals that were convicted of a felony while holding the office.  This would have the effect of immediately expelling a Mayor or Council member upon conviction for any felony and also barring the individual from holding that particular office again.  Interestingly a Council member convicted while serving on the Council would not be disqualified from serving as Mayor and vice versa.  These Amendments would also fail to bar candidates who resigned before conviction from holding the same office again in the future.  Continue reading

DC Ballot Access Free-for-All?

Is it better to leave the legislative process entirely in the hands of the elite or should the public have input? Recently The Washington Examiner reported on the disparity between getting a candidate on the ballot and getting an initiative on the ballot. According to this article, candidates are required to produce less than 4,000 signatures to qualify for ballot entry while initiatives require approximately 23,300 to qualify.  These standards are given in the DC election code. The candidate requirement is set at 2,000 signatures (for city wide board members participating in a primary)—limited to the political party of the candidate—or 1% of the political party, whichever is less.  If the candidate is not participating in a primary election, then the number of signatures is set at 1.5% of the registered voters or 3,000 signatures, whichever is less. Instead of these set numbers, initiatives require signatures from 5% of registered electors, with this list containing at least 5% of the electors from 5 separate wards. Continue reading

Appointee to DC Board of Elections and Ethics falls before questionable statute

by Neil Gibson

In Washington, DC, the end of September saw Mayor Vincent Gray rendered helpless before a provision of DC’s statutory code, which foiled Gray’s attempt to fill out membership of the city’s  Board of Elections and Ethics.

In short, “civic activist” Dorothy Brizill, DC’s unofficial “government watchdog,” exposed the failure of Gray’s appointee for Board Chair to meet the residency requirement of the Board of Elections and Ethics statute. The statute calls for all Elections Board members to have lived in the city for three consecutive years, but the appointee, Robert Mallett, only moved to DC from New York City in May, 2010. With Gray already enduring corruption allegations and a recent flap concerning improper vetting of an executive appointee, he cut ties with Mallett soon after the problem arose, and is currently searching for a replacement.

Though there is no arguing the letter of the residency law, the absurdity of its application here rivals the District government’s apparent ignorance of its own legislative code. True, Mallett lived in New York from 2001-2010. But before heading north, he had been a DC resident for seventeen years. While a DC resident, Mallet served as Deputy Mayor, Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Commerce, an adjunct professor at the Georgetown Law Center… and the list of his high-profile DC-centric activities goes on. Continue reading

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