Jack Evans isn’t the Councilmember DC needs, but the one DC deserves right now.
Yes, I purposely misquoted the Dark Night. And, no, it’s not just a bitter statement by a losing candidate.
DC residents seek Statehood (as they should!) so they can have a voice in national issues. Yet, they don’t seem to care when it comes to local elections. 2018 is a perfect example of this. Besides the elections for Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs), none of the races were even close. In the Democratic primary, the closest race was in Ward 1 where Kent Boese received 25.08 percent of the vote in comparison to the incumbent Brianne Nadeau’s 48.28 percent. However, only 11,995 registered Democrats out of 45,226 voted. In the general election, the numbers weren’t much better. It was a cakewalk for each and every incumbent.
There are any number of reasons why our 2018 election wasn’t much more than a coronation. But the primary reasons are DC residents, those who voted as well as those who did not, and our current voting system.
I know this is an unpopular take. Many, including myself, blame Councilmember Evans’ colleagues for not holding him accountable. Others argue we need a stronger ethics board. But, in the end, none of that matters unless residents pay attention, show up and vote.
If the Council calls out a councilmember and no one is listening, so what? It’s like a tree falling in a forest. Same for a strong ethics board.
What we need is a system that leads to more informed voting. That system is nonpartisan elections. Unlike with partisan elections, studies have shown that with nonpartisan elections, the quality of each candidate has a substantial effect on their vote share and probability of winning.
Nonpartisan elections require voters to know the candidates, their positions, and what they seek to achieve. One could argue that even though that doesn’t really take place during our general elections, it already occurs during our primaries. However, approximately 125,000 out of 515,000 voters are not registered as Democrats. That means 25 percent of registered DC voters don’t have a chance to vote or have a voice.
Moreover, many DC residents don’t even bother to register and vote in the District. Why? They don’t believe their voice matters. The incumbents always win. Although historically this isn’t true, it did happen in 2018. And, I believe it will happen again in 2020. Unfortunately, enough residents aren’t paying close enough attention to local politics for change to occur. Nor are they turning out to vote. Let’s change the system and make our elections more meaningful. This will increase not only competition in our elections but also our turnout.
So, how do we go about changing our election process? First, we should amend our proposed constitution to include nonpartisan elections. This will ensure once we become a state, we will have nonpartisan elections like Nebraska, currently the only state with a unicameral legislature. Second, in the meantime, we should lobby Congress to amend the DC Home Rule Charter, a policy already part of the DC GOP’s platform. After all, the House originally supported nonpartisan elections. Third, and finally, we should demand the Council initiate the charter amending process so that we can don’t need to wait for or rely on Congress to fix our election system.
We will always have elected officials who let us down. Nonpartisan elections can ensure they don’t remain in office long.
Michael Bekesha has been a Ward 6 resident since 2010. He ran for the Ward 6 Council seat in November 2018. He, his wife Holly, and their rescue dog Sprocket live in Navy Yard. He identifies as an Urban Republican. He may be reached by email or on Twitter.