City Paper Widget

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

ANC2B Opposes Voting Precinct Simplification Plan

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle voted to oppose the DC government's plan to simplify the District's system of voting precincts. The new system may save money and make elections easier to administer, but it may also mean a longer trip for many Dupont residents to their polling station.

The vote, 7-1 to oppose the plan, took place at ANC2B's regular monthly meeting on October 9.

Clifford D. Tatum, Executive Director of the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics (DCBOEE), appeared before ANC2B to state the case for the new plan.

The plan for new voting districts

As it stands now, DC election precincts are drawn completely without regard to ANC districts. As a result, residents of a single ANC district may vote at three or four different polling places, and a polling place may need to have several different ballots on hand, one for each ANC district in which a voter might reside. The idea is to align ANC districts and voting precincts, so that a single precinct would receive all voters in an ANC district. Voting precincts would handle one to four ANC districts, with the overwhelming majority handling two ANC districts.

According to DCBOEE's 2013 Precinct Boundary Efficiency Plan (58-page .pdf here), the number of ballots that would have to be printed under the new system would drop by 50 percent. Based on the number of ballots printed for the last general election, DCBOEE estimates the new system would save the city $80,000 in printing costs alone. There could be further savings as the reduced number of ballots would be both easier to proofread and administer, and would require less training to use.

An additional benefit for ANC candidates would be (in many cases) a reduced number of polling places to campaign at. Plus, when a candidate visited a polling place, he or she could be certain an arriving voter is eligible to vote for the candidate.

The DCBOEE document contains testimony from ANC2B Commissioner Abigail Nichols (district 05) about this point. During her unsuccessful 2012 ANC Commissioner bid, Nichols wrote,
My ability to reach out to potential constituents was hampered both by having to spread myself among three polling places but also by not knowing which voters at each polling place were my constituents. Although voters approaching the polls were tolerant, I was wasting the time of up to three quarters of them as I tried to figure out which [district] they were from.
Nichols eventually won a spot on ANC2B in a March 2013 special election.

ANC opposition

Although the total number of voting precincts will remain roughly the same (141 proposed vs. 143 presently), some voting places will change. Of these, some voters will have a longer trip to their voting place. This was the basis of ANC opposition, which was led by Commissioner Mike Silverstein (district 06).

Silverstein's district has a long, thin dog-leg shape, running from Rock Creek at N Street NW on one end to 17th Street and G Streets, near the White House, at the other. Now, his district is in three different voting precincts: 4, 14, and 17.

Under the new plan, Silverstein's district would be combined with neighboring ANC2B district 07 into a single voting precinct. Residents of both districts would vote at the Charles Summer School (1201 17th Street, at M Street). This polling place is located outside the boundaries of the proposed new district. It would mean a longer walk for most voters, Silverstein said, across several major intersections.

Silverstein said the plan put ease of election administration and campaigning before voter interest.

"It's not our convenience," Silverstein said.

Silverstein also said he opposed changing voting precincts within six months of a primary election. (There will be a primary election on April 1, 2014.) This would increase voter confusion, he said.

The choice of polling places may be controversial in other places as well. Recent tweets indicate some residents of ANC6E/Shaw may not be happy with the choice of a church for their new polling station.

Opportunity for public comment

There will be two public hearings for those wishing to comment on the plan. The first is on Friday, October 18 at 10am in the Office of Zoning Hearing Room, 2nd Floor South, One Judiciary Square. The second is on Thursday, October 24, at 6pm in the Old Council Chambers, First Floor South Lobby, One Judiciary Square.

The public is also invited to submit written comments through Wednesday, October 30, using email or postal address

Board of Elections
Government of the District of Columbia
One Judiciary Square
441 4th Street NW
Suite 250 North
Washington, DC 20001


  1. While I agree with the opposition to this because it's within six months of a primary, the whole distance argument is a canard. The city offers no-excuse absentee voting and you can even be on a permanent list so your ballot is always mailed to you. Having to walk several additional blocks (and gasp, cross intersections) should not impact your ability to vote.

  2. No one should have to walk more than a mile to a polling place when there is another one next door. Yet that is EXACTLY the case with this new plan and residents of apartments at 23rd and N Streets. They should be able to vote at Francis-Stevens - next door. But, since FSEC is in a different SMD, they will be required to either cast an absentee ballot, go to early vote at Judiciary Square, or walk more than a mile to Sumner School. That's no canard, pal. And it's not "a few blocks," especially for the elderly. That's the truth.