Housing Complex

Thought Experiment: What If Only Registered Voters Counted In Redistricting?


Every year, a certain section of D.C.'s population gets very upset about redistricting. Sometimes, the people who yell loudest and collect the most petitions get what they want, even with no formal vote or other impartial way of measuring who wants what across the entire population. But isn't that what democracy is all about? That those who stand up and participate determine how things go? After all, the principle of "One Person, One Vote" only matters to the extent that people actually do vote (well, you can always lobby your councilmember even if you don't vote, but voting is the easiest thing to measure).

If we took that as a given, then perhaps we should only redraw ward boundaries according to the population of people who care enough about what happens in D.C. make an impact at the ballot box. Above is a graph of the number of voters registered in the District at the end of March, broken down by ward. The median number of registered voters in any ward is 57,454. With a deviation of five percent on either side, the allowable lower end is 54,582, and the upper end is 60,327. That makes wards 4, 5, and 6 too large, and wards 2 and 8 too small.

The Ward 2 results are the most striking, but also make sense: Downtown neighborhoods have gained the most residents over the last decade, but they're lagging behind in getting involved in D.C. affairs. Hopefully, voter registration will catch up over the next decade.

(For the record, I'm not advocating that we actually do this.)

  • http://alexblock.net Alex B.

    The assumption here regarding those who are registered to vote is that the population of those eligible to vote is evenly distributed across the city. I doubt that it is. For example, is Ward 8 too small because of a lack of political participation, or because it has a lot of children who are not yet of age to vote?

    Anyway, the Census has a long tradition of counting all residents, not citizens or voters. And representation has always been based on the number of residents, not the number of eligible voters.

  • Jes’ sayin’

    At least a third of the registered voters in my condo don't live here any more. They're somewhere out there in Ward 9 or New York or California or New Jersey or even Guatemala. Some have been gone for a couple of years.

    At least the people who were counted on April first were here on that date.

  • Southeast Ken

    The article didn't mention Ward 1. I can't believe Ward 1 has 57,000 voters. This is a very small Ward. Parts of Ward 4 should go into Ward 1.

  • Voting is fun I guess if you have the time and like slightly self-righteous stickers

    I know you're joking, but not voting doesn't indicate a lack of interest in city affairs. It only indicates a lack of faith in the power or relevance of the decision making influence made available.

    Voting in local DC elections has given me nothing in terms of a direct return on my investment of time. All the elections do is provide a process of continuity of government and that doesn't really need any of us to keep going.

  • W Jordan

    Maybe we should implement a 3/5ths clause and get rid of the concept of 1 person 1 vote. If there is an issue or candidate that Ms. DePillis supports, the other side's votes only count for 3/5ths of their total. Politics is just too messy for the New Urbanist.

  • Jes’ sayin’


    Great idea! I was talking to my friend Courtland, and he suggested that Myopic Little Twits get 3/5th of a vote until they grow up.

    Sounds like a plan.