One year out from the District’s next general election, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen has introduced legislation to modernize the District’s elections, building off of innovative approaches taken during the pandemic to ensure voting in the 2020 election cycle was accessible and safe including vote by mail and expanded ballot drop boxes, central “Vote Centers”, a public-facing data portal and dashboard, and making election day a DCPS holiday.
The Elections Modernization Amendment Act of 2021 is co-introduced by Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Janeese Lewis George, Brooke Pinto, Elissa Silverman, and Robert White, Jr. Councilmember Allen is the Chair of the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, which has oversight of the Board of Elections.
“There are times when necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s exactly what we saw when a pandemic and a general election collided,” said Councilmember Allen. “DC held a safe, secure, and accessible election by making it easier to vote and safe to vote from home. These are common sense and popular changes we need to make a permanent part of our elections moving forward. In doing so, we will broaden the number of people who are able to participate in our elections and feel more invested in their government.”
The bill would make several changes the Board of Elections made during the 2020 election cycle permanent, including:
- Permanent Vote by Mail requiring the Board to mail a postage-paid ballot to every registered DC voter and provide tracking updates and improved communication with voters about the status of their ballot and any issues with signature verification;
- Require the Board to expand the number of ballot drop boxes to 100 at accessible locations for at least 10 hours per day during early voting and on election day;
- Create Vote Centers throughout the District where all eligible voters can cast a ballot during early voting or on election day;
- Recognize Election Day as a DCPS holiday to enable access to neighborhood polling places and teach children the importance of voting.
The bill would also:
- Create transparency through a new election data portal and dashboard on the Board’s website;
- Support the new Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner position for incarcerated Department of Corrections residents, including by requiring improved educational materials from the Board, facilitating signature gathering and voting, and providing a staff liaison to assist the new ANC with their duties;
- Follow best practices being implemented across the country to prevent “faithless electors” who do not vote for the nominee of the party for which they were elected in presidential elections; and
- Allow DCPS employees to serve as members of the nonpartisan, elected State Board of Education.
After introduction, the bill will be referred to the Committee and a hearing date will be announced.