Member Statements on 2023-EER2: Resolution to Endorse Initiative 83

Statements from chapter members in favor and against 2023-EER2: Resolution to Endorse Initiative 83 will be posted in this thread.

IN FAVOR by Vinay O.

Comrades, I urge you to support Initiative 83 in support of Ranked Choice Voting and Semi-Open Primaries in Washington DC. My broad reasons are below, but you can also see our FAQ Document or contact me directly with questions. First, to begin with the Semi-open Primaries component. It makes tremendous sense for us to support opening up primaries to independent voters: we have an opportunity to appeal to the many independents to the left of the Democratic Party in this city. Close to 50% of Gen Z identify as independent / politically unaffiliated, and they strongly skew progressive. Right now, these Gen Z voters cant vote in the primaries, and that is going to increasingly hurt us over time as Gen Z grows in their share of the electorate. The old model of seeing independents as moderates needs to be thrown out, especially in a one party state like DC. The truth is, an increasing number of socialists are independents because the Democratic Party isn’t left enough for them - let’s make sure they can vote in the primaries for DSA candidates. I also want to be clear - this initiative would NOT allow registered Republicans to vote in the Democratic primary. It would only allow unaffiliated voters to vote in party primaries.

Now onto Ranked Choice Voting. Ranked Choice Voting is the fastest growing voting reform in the United States, and the DSA has not only endorsed it in many locations around the country, it has won in many RCV elections (please see FAQ Document for more details on this). It has consistently been shown to get more women and minorities elected. It is time for the capital to follow the rest of the country and implement this reform. Since moving to the United States, I have seen the same shocking cycle, on endless repeat. Socialist candidates run in primaries, and voters are told we are unelectable. Then, after losing, we are told we must endorse and support the establishment to prevent a Republican victory, and anyone who DOES run is a ‘spoiler’. This creates a loop where non-establishment candidates gain far less votes, are seen as ‘non-serious’, and their supporters lose hope and check out of the electoral process entirely. All of this reinforces the narrative that the establishment is what people want, which serves to weaken us. It is an endless cycle of gaslighting and abuse, it is one that all of you have seen, and one that is likely to continue ad infinitum. We all know this is outrageous. We all know this situation cannot be allowed to continue. But it will continue so long as we have the existing first past the post system. So long as the concept of ‘wasted votes’ exists, the system is stacked against socialists.

Thankfully, we have an opportunity to break this cycle forever. Initiative 83, which would bring Ranked Choice Voting to DC, would do this. In my native Australia, we regularly have socialists elected to office on a local, state and national level, as independents and in minor parties. Our Green Party is powerful, and is often the controlling vote in parliament. Labor, Australia’s equivalent of the Democrats, is continuously forced to negotiate with the Greens. All of this is only possible due to having Ranked Choice Voting. Supporting this ballot initiative seems like an incredibly obvious choice for the DSA, and I urge you to support it.


Comrades, I write in support of endorsing Initiative 83 and taking action to ensure its success at the ballot box. This initiative aligns with our ideals of creating an open society, where all voices are heard, respected, and contributed. I write in support of ranked-choice voting, which allows for one to vote for as many candidates as they wish. This diminishes arguments for spoiling one’s vote, allows people to leverage their votes, and has been widely successful for the left. In addition, I write in support of semi-open primaries, allowing unaffiliated voters to vote in party primaries. A common argument against the left is that we are spoilers and that our refusal to vote for establishment candidates allows for more moderate/conservative candidates to win. RCV renders this mute, as voters can vote their conscience in the top rank, and put the establishment candidate in the lower ranks. An effect of this is that competing candidates and parties often avoid attacking other candidates and parties, as they try to gain as many votes as possible. A good current example is under our FPTP system, the Democratic Party is attacking left-wing candidates and parties, such as Cornel West and the Green Party. Under an RCV system, Biden and the Democratic Party would be courting these voters, primarily by incorporating policies from both to get voters to rank them second. In Ireland and Australia, where RCV has been the norm for decades, it caused a major depolarization in their political systems, as everyone is careful to not be critical, as to risk losing votes. Even in the US, this depolarization is already happening, with the best example being Maine’s 2020 Senatorial race, as Democratic Party candidate Sara Gideon and Green Party candidate Lisa Savage often attended events and fundraisers together, and would promote each other’s campaigns and policies, as both depended on the other for votes.

RCV has helped the left more than the FPTP, which has hurt the left. In NYC, RCV contributed to the formation of a socialist slate on the city council. RCV also took an 11% lead toward Eric Adams and made it a .4% win. RCV helped the Minneapolis City Council gain a progressive majority in this past election, allowing it to restrict the policies of Mayor Frey. RCV would have delivered progressive wins in NY-10, where progressives split the vote, allowing moderate Dan Goldman to win, who later censured Comrade Rashida Tlaib for speaking up for Palestinians. It would have delivered a progressive win in MA-04, as progressives allowed for moderate Jake Auchincloss to win, who is pro-corporations, pro-Big Pharma, anti-immigration, and a staunch Zionist. Ranked-choice voting is one of the most democratic forms of voting so far, allowing for as many voices to be heard in who they want to represent. As Democratic Socialists, we should strive for the most democratic forms everywhere. Semi-open primaries should be strongly supported by the Democratic Socialists of America. Most voters are unaffiliated with a political party and unaffiliated is the largest growing party in the US. We should strive to organize everyone, both in their work and at the polls, and having primaries, which in most places is tantamount to the general election, be open is crucial for a strong democratic system.

There are concerns among comrades that opening up the D.C. primaries would open them up to sabotage by Republicans or independent conservatives. There is no research on how unaffiliated voters in DC lean, but given that DC is the most Democratic city in the nation, I am inclined to believe they were more to the left than moderate/conservatives. The threat of Republicans or Republican-supportive independents sabotaging the primaries is very weak to non-existent. Trump’s biggest improvement was in DC, where in 2016, he garnered 5% of the vote, but in 2020, he garnered 7%. This past mayoral election was the first time in over a decade that Republicans ran a candidate, who garnered 5% of the vote and was outbeat by an independent, who garnered 15% of the vote.

I also want to address a common criticism I hear from comrades within the chapter. Our chapter is experiencing electoral success on the ballot box. Some people are opposed to RCV and open primaries because it may affect the current success we have. Some people are opposed to it because we may have to change our current strategy. The idea that change should not happen now, because we are benefiting from current conditions is quite literally what conservatism is founded upon. I encourage people to think of better reasons and to discontinue using these arguments. We are democratic socialism, and we should be opposed to any form of conservatism, especially within our ranks In conclusion, I feel that RCV and semi-open primaries align with the values of democratic socialism and that we should vote to endorse them, both on strategic, but also moral grounds. Whereas the Democratic and Republican parties organize ideas imposed by a small elite, we seek to be organized by ideas from everyone with shared goals and values. A tenant of democratic socialism is creating a society that is open to all voices, and allowing for multiple voices to be heard on the ballot, as well as to be heard in the primaries, is important to our cause

IN FAVOR by James E.

I would like to voice my support of I-83 and explain why I think the changes Initiative 83 would enact are a good thing. I’m a volunteer. I volunteer in our DSA chapter. I’m also a volunteer on the I-83 campaign. I believe I-83 intersects with my values as a Democratic Socialist because Initiative 83 will improve voting rights by allowing greater freedom of choice and voter access to our democratic process. Ranked choice voting will increase the options voters have during elections. I think this will lead to an improved quality of our elected officials in DC. Also as an independent voter, I am currently unable to vote in the DC primary, meaning voters like myself are disenfranchised from this portion of the voting process. There is no true emancipation without full voting rights for all Americans. So in closing, I believe Initiative 83 increases voter freedom, and increases voter enfranchisement, both of which will lead to improvements in our democracy. This is why I’m asking our chapter to vote on endorsing the initiative. Thank you.

IN FAVOR by Jacob H.

This is one of the most meaningful electoral reforms that DSA can push for. This will increase voter engagement and give Third Parties a better chance to win, without being accused of spoiling the vote. Maybe someday we could enact Proportional Representation, but Ranked Choice voting is an easier change to make, and could be replicated across the country.

IN FAVOR by Joseph M.

I support this Initiative and hope the Democratic Socialists will increasingly have the option to run.

IN FAVOR by Avram R.

What is the MetroDC DSA’s political strategy in the near- and long-term? This is the question behind the question to endorse Initiative 83. Does MetroDC DSA seek to compete politically independent of the Democratic Party? Or does it wish to be an interest group swaying Democratic Party behavior? If you want the former, you should support endorsement of I-83 because open primaries and ranked-choice voting are useful for building socialist power in DC.

Most members of DSA are probably familiar with the arguments in favor of ranked-choice voting (RCV) for DSA-allied candidates. RCV ensures that the winner of the election has majoritarian support. DSA policy priorities are popular, especially in a city, so ensuring that winning candidates receive a majority will lead to more socialists being elected or socialist policies being enacted. If socialists lose it will not be because of a particularly unfair system, but because there is more work to be done persuading and organizing voters for socialist policies.

The argument for open primaries is a little less clear. I was initially skeptical of them myself but I believe they can be helpful for building socialist power for a few reasons.

First, primary elections already get only around half of the voter turnout that general elections get in DC. Many unregistered or uncommitted voters are young, low-income, and/or people of color. The status quo system benefits establishment, high name recognition candidates and incumbents, i.e. often not socialist challengers. The fact is, in citywide races, even with RCV, Democrats will continue to be the only game in town for a long time. Including a larger share of voters in those elections (which are effectively determined during the Democratic primary) will increase the chance for a socialist or socialist-adjacent mayor.

Second, if the DSA seeks to build a proper political party, it will be helpful in the meantime for people to easily switch between strategic voting in the Democratic Party in the primary in races where there may be a socialist-friendly Democrat and supporting viable DSA Party candidates in the general. Indeed, in our At-Large City Council elections, where two seats are contested, open primaries gives us a chance to potentially elect two socialists in one election - one as a Democrat and the other as an independent.

But a lingering question - should the DSA support the measure substantively and do political organizing for it? Again I think the answer is yes.

The body has only endorsed Councilmember Janeese Lewis-George (Ward 4) and committed to supporting her campaign. I do not think the challenge to Lewis-George isn’t a concern - Lisa Gore is a strong candidate. However, the primary (and thus the election) will effectively be over June 4. So there is ample time for DSA members to support another campaign that will last until November after the June primary. Plus, in the meantime, DSA members who live relatively far from Ward 4 may be more interested in campaigning around something that impacts them. For all these reasons, I believe MetroDC DSA has the capacity to support another campaign.


I’ll be voting against the chapter endorsement of Initiative 83, and against the Initiative itself, primarily because it opens up primaries. This would allow people who currently do not register for either major party (i.e. independents) to choose which primary to vote in; it would not allow registered Republicans to vote in Democratic primaries. There is, however, nothing to stop current Republicans – who, as we see from Salah Czapary’s run in the 2022 Ward 1 race, Eric Goulet’s run in the Ward 3 race, and now recall efforts in wards 6 and 1, are getting more and more organized in DC – from re-registering as independents, and voting for the most right wing Democrat available. In theory, the effect of these voters entering the Democratic primaries would be offset by left-wing independents who would prefer our candidates, but I don’t think we can rely on this constituency. I don’t think voters who abstain from helping decide who wins the election, based purely on an aesthetic objection to registering as a Democrat (as opposed to a desire to remain in the party they prefer, like Republicans do) are a useful part of our electoral coalition, because their approach to politics is fundamentally individualist and idealist, rather than being collectivist and materialist, like socialists are. Voters who behave this way may be good, or even great, allies to socialists and socialism in areas outside of elections, but there’s a very good chance that they decide our candidates – constrained as they are by the fact that our class enemies are far stronger than we are – are also insufficiently pure to earn their vote, and continue to abstain from helping decide how our city is run. A vote for I83 is a vote to add a mass of organized, self-conscious, right wing voters to Democratic primaries, in the hopes that unorganized, ideologically disparate, left wing voters offset them; that’s a bad bet, and I hope you join me in voting against taking it.

The previous paragraph sums up the best reason to vote against endorsing Initiative 83, but I have another, followed by some thoughts on what party building is and is not. Fundamentally, this isn’t a socialist reform, and some of the resources (primarily volunteer time and credibility) we spend on winning it, if we endorse, would have gone elsewhere. These are distinct arguments, but I present them together because we need to be realistic about the amount of resources we actually have (not a lot!), and deploy them where they’re going to get the most value. We have 5 priority campaigns, 4 of which aren’t primarily about winning elections, and 2 of which are quite far removed from it, as well as numerous non-priority chapter formations. All of these uses of resources strike me as more worthwhile than passing Initiative 83, because all a switch to this type of ranked choice voting does is slightly reconfigure strategic incentives in primaries (and not necessarily in favor to us!), rather than building working class power directly, or materially benefitting the working class. We have opportunities to do those things elsewhere, though, so we can just do them.

More abstractly, an argument I’ve sort of detected from I83 supporters is that I83 helps us with party building because it lets us get off of the Democratic ballot line. I understand where this comes from, and agree that party building is incredibly important – in my view it’s our main task – but I completely disagree with this logic. That’s because we don’t pay a meaningful political cost for using the Democratic ballot line: at the municipal level, the party can’t actually do much to our candidates except try to beat them by persuading voters to vote for their preferred candidate instead, which is by no means guaranteed at this point. It’s often the case that our candidates are foiled, once they are on the council, by procedural maneuvering or unexpected opposition coalitions forming, but the solution is to make our de facto council caucus more powerful, and I83 does that only very indirectly, if at all. We can win in Wards 1, 4, and 5 already, and first past the post isn’t what’s keeping us from winning in 7 and 8, or citywide: our problem is that we aren’t powerful enough, because we don’t have a good enough leadership pipeline to find and create cadre candidates in many places, and because we don’t have enough engaged members to conduct the kind of field operation we need to win citywide. RCV won’t help us defeat strong incumbents, which we need to be able to do, and its effect in heavily contested primaries is ambiguous. RCV isn’t a shortcut to building a party, since a party is much more than a ballot line (and since the ballot line itself isn’t all that important); let’s build the party together instead of worrying about marginal electoral reforms.

IN FAVOR by John Z.

In a race with many candidates, I’m inclined to vote for someone who who’s a friend or whose values align very closely to mine. But if I don’t think that person can win, I look for someone who’s more likely to win and whose values are pretty close to mine. Ranked Choice Voting let’s me do both: My heart picks my first choice. Then, if my first choice doesn’t win, my vote for my second choice counts!

AGAINST by David S.

Metro DC DSA should strongly support Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) for both primary and general elections. Of course all voters including Independent voters will have their vote counted in the general election as previously, but RCV will make their preferences transparent. As Kymone Freeman put so well in a DC Board of Elections (DCBOE) hearing:

“Ranked-choice voting opens the door for people who want to run for mayor,”…“It nullifies the notion of voting for the ‘lesser of two evils.’ It makes sure the winner represents voters. It allows young people to have a say in the most important election. It won’t cost DCBOE any more than what it costs to get elections out. Let’s build better community power.”

But the second part of I83 is very problematic. We should strongly oppose open primaries on principle since primaries for ballot status parties is how registered members can democratically choose their nominees for the general election without interference by non-members. Open primaries undermine the very reason why different political parties exist to offer their distinctive platforms and visions for democratic elections.

Further regarding opening up primaries for Independent voters, these voters can now switch to a political party registration to vote in its primary no less than 21 days before that primary. The switch of Independents to Democrats has been abused by candidates who want to avoid competing in the DP Primary, e.g,. the slumlord funded McDuffie who took out Silverman in the 2022 election. The DC Democratic State Committee opposes both RCV and open primaries. Take note of the fact that Robert White could have been elected Mayor in 2022 with RCV since Bowser had a bit under 50% of the primary vote.

Lisa Rice, a Board member of Unite America ( d-t-rice) was the proposer of this component of I83. Here is a link to this organization, led by millionaires/billionaires (see their leadership): https://www. uniteamerica.orgTheir vision: Nonpartisan Primaries — Unite America ;

“Nonpartisan Primaries
Every eligible voter should be able to vote for any candidate, regardless of party, in every taxpayer-funded election. Period. Nonpartisan primaries give all voters a greater voice in who represents them, forcing politicians to listen to all of their constituents and put country over party to deliver real solutions.”

The result: because of California’s nonpartisan primary, the candidates of Green Party were denied access to state-wide general elections, with only the Democratic and Republican party candidates left as choices (see wiki/2022_California_ gubernatorial_election)/. I conclude that Unite America’s real goal is to limit choices to the two- party duopoly plus billionaire-financed independent candidates. Therefore, we should not be their accomplice by supporting open primaries allowing Independents to participate, noting that I83 is a step towards Unite America’s agenda.

I suggest as better option for Independent voters: A primary for Independent voters. This would apparently require an amendment to the Home Rule Charter, so it may be considered as part of a Constitution for the state of Douglass Commonwealth, noting that a real delegated elected Constitutional Convention must be convened not more than two years after DC achieves statehood, as spelled out in the Congressional statehood bills. This is a requirement in the minimalistic constitution passed by voters in the November 2016 election.

Finally, if I83 passes impending court review and voters approve it, the DC Council has to legislate it in some form or not, an opportunity for DSA to lobby for the implementation of RCV but not open primaries. For all these reasons, I propose that Metro DC DSA issue a statement in support of RCV but oppose open primaries.

IN FAVOR by Imara C.

Hello comrades, I’m submitting this statement to urge you to vote in support of endorsing i83 on the adoption of ranked choice voting. My vote is rooted in morality and principles of democracy rather than political power, but I would also note that the arguments made about this initiative being outside of the interests of DSA or even MetroDC DSA are misguided or at minimum overzealous. We do not know if RCV will harm leftist candidates, but we do know that first past the post voting harms voters, their ability to participate and their faith in democracy. Why do I support RCV in general? Largely because it is worlds better and more democratic than the current standard alternative. My take on FPTP plurality voting is that it strengthens current party structures and fundamentally undercuts organizations like DSA. The negative consequences of plurality voting are plentiful and known. No one should have to worry that they are “wasting their vote” by voting with their interests. The current reality of strategic voting helps no one save those with established power.

Further, FPTP voting ties us for better and worse to the Democratic Party, an institution that has made it clear at every opportunity that they loathe us as much as if not more than the Republican Party. We argue regularly that Americans agree with us on the issues, if we truly believe this we should be committed to changes that make it more feasible for Americans to show publicly their support for our platforms and ideas rather than having to vote strategically for the candidate they hate least, or believe is most likely to win.

Some in opposition to this resolution will argue that alternative methods of voting disempower leftist candidates. This has been researched and it is just not demonstrably true. The jury is absolutely still out on the effects of RCV, and folks telling you firmly that it benefits right or left leaning candidates are being very vocal about expressing their vibes.I cannot say, nor can anyone else state confidently that RCV will be good or bad for leftist candidates in DC. There will be a sea of political thinkers and genius brain pundits telling you otherwise but the evidence is very clearly mixed.If we believe that the purpose of DSA’s advocacy and organizing is to promote a socialist future that benefits everyone, we should support systemic changes that allow people to advocate for that future. Ultimately, I urge you all to vote for i83 because sometimes votes are about more than capturing short term power. Sometimes votes are about progress and doing the right thing. DSA has a long history of being on the right side of issues, we shouldn’t let politics or the hope for short term victories get in the way of that history.

IN FAVOR by Brian D.

If you’re pro-democracy then you ought to be pro-RCV. Rank Choice Voting is the best mechanism we have to provide proportional representation. We know that when a government is aligned with the will of the people, it enacts better policies. RCV solves the worst problem with plurality voting, the spoiler vote. It gives voters the opportunity to express their political will. For many people this means candidates that are farther left than established candidates. Elections using RCV discourage negative campaigning. In fact the opposite is seen where candidates say they share some of the same values other candidates do. After all, if they are not a candidates first choice there’s still value in being their second choice. In elections where people vote early – often because they are deployed overseas – and where candidates drop out, voter’s choices are discarded. In an RCV election with instant run off, a voter’s voice an still be heard. In RCV election after election, we see that the collection of candidates are more diverse. This is because they feel they have a chance at representing constituencies of similar background. In a 5-0 vote, on Saturday, Feb 23rd 2024, RCV was adopted in Arlington Virginia for use in the City Council general election. Arlington County Board mulls ranked-choice voting expansion for 2024 general election | RCV is taking the country by storm for good reason. It’s better democracy.

AGAINST by Claire M.

In addition to implementing ranked choice voting, Initiative 83 would open primaries to voters who choose not to register with a political party. I urge my fellow members to vote no on endorsing Initiative 83 because these open primary provisions will make it significantly harder for our chapter to achieve the transformative changes we need to improve material conditions for the working class in the District.

Open primaries would severely damage progressive candidates’ chances of winning election, making it near impossible to get socialists in office and leverage our electoral power to win transformative change in the District. Conservatives and unregistered Republicans will infiltrate open Democratic primaries and swing these elections to the right. And DC is at particular risk for this kind of activity from the right because Republican candidates struggle to gain traction in general elections. Our class enemies have every reason to push Democratic candidates as far to the center as possible, including using their unregistered party affiliation to vote for centrist candidates in Democratic primaries. We should not doubt they will use this opportunity against us, and we should not organize to make it possible by endorsing Initiative 83.

Proponents of I83 claim open primaries fight voter suppression. Of course, voter suppression is indeed rampant in the District – the wealthy and powerful use every tactic in the book to disenfranchise the working class. These efforts have real impacts on who votes and how easy it is for them to do so. And they are part of a long history of disenfranchising Black people and other people of color, women, and poor people in this country and specifically here in DC. Voter suppression is a real threat to democracy. It is not however, what our friends who choose not to register with a particular political party are experiencing.

Simply put, experiencing the consequences of knowingly making a choice that restricts your ability to vote is not voter suppression. To imply such is an insult to the many people who genuinely struggle to overcome significant barriers to cast their ballot and to the organizers who have fought for decades to win the voting rights and protections we do enjoy. The average person experiencing real voter suppression in Washington, DC is a nurse on a 12-hour shift on election day, a food service worker who misses the registration deadline, or a student in university housing who doesn’t know how to show proof of residence. It is not a principled socialist with enough knowledge of how our election system works to refuse to register as a Democrat. If we want to address voter suppression, we should do all we can to put socialists in office who will expand voter protections. Initiative 83 will do the opposite.

Ultimately, elections are a tool for us to put socialists in office who can pass transformative policy and improve the material conditions of the working class. Initiative 83 would make it more difficult to do this work.

AGAINST by Gary Z.

I am AGAINST Metro DC DSA endorsement of Initiative 83, although I have signed the position to get this on the general election ballot and I am leaning in favor of voting yes on the Initiative should it make it on the DC ballot this November. To be clear, I think the chapter declining endorsement should not be interpreted as chapter opposition to the initiative.

Should I83 be adopted by DC, I believe arguments spelling certain doom for left electoral projects are overblown. Members advocating for I83 have posed persuasive arguments to me in addressing and dispelling specific fears I’ve had about this. It is worth noting that the DSA’s most successful socialist electoral projects (Twin Cities DSA, NYC DSA) exist under RCV, and Twin Cities DSA uses an open primary system that is, theoretically, more hostile to socialist candidates vying for party ballot lines.

However I’m not sure there is a clear socialist reason to organize for this ballot initiative. I don’t see a voting system reform as a means for initiating or carrying out socialism – and even though this may be a better system for voters and provide some utility to socialist candidates running, I haven’t been convinced that this is worth marshaling chapter resources in support.

I am also sympathetic to the DC Statehood Party’s opposition to I83, on grounds that a semi-open primary process could threaten third party building. RCV is supported by the Statehood Party, but a semi-open primary would incentivize people to register as independent (rather than for a third-party), so that they can vote in primaries outside of the third party. (The DC Statehood Party has a historic association with our chapter, and remains the most credible third party active in the city, so I take their analysis seriously.)

Regardless of whether or not Metro DC DSA endorses this, I believe our chapter should continue to encourage dialog and discussion on the initiative, and also think it is appropriate for advocates of I83 to solicit members to support the initiative in a personal capacity. To be clear, non-endorsement doesn’t mean opposition. And I’m very interested to see our city debate this.

  • Gary zZz


I am writing to encourage my comrades to vote against the endorsement of Initiative 83 by Metro DC DSA. For context, I signed the petition to get Initiative 83 on the ballot. While I’ll admit that I am still undecided on the issues of open primaries and ranked choice voting themselves, I do think they’re issues worth discussing, and I am leaning toward voting Yes come Election Day.

However, that doesn’t mean I think this campaign is worth our time and resources. Electoral campaigns provide us with one of the best means of recruitment into DSA; politically-minded people get involved, and when we lead them to victory, people want to work more with us directly. I believe as socialists, our aim on this front must be to prioritize issues that will connect us with working class people from an array of backgrounds. Our work on Initiative 82 provides a good example of this. Eliminating something like the tip credit raises the bar of financial stability for thousands of bussers, servers, bartenders, and the like in our city. When considering the disparities that marginalized people deal with when it comes to relying solely on tips for their income, a ballot measure like Initiative 82 transforms into a much more potent, personal fight. Tipped workers like myself came into contact with DSA organizers working on the campaign, and their work led to the initiative passing by well over a supermajority. Impressed with our chapter’s win, I joined.

We need to remain connected with working class people to build worker power throughout our city. Initiative 83, frankly, could alienate us. So please vote No on endorsing this campaign. To me, wonky modifications to our electoral processes take a backseat to the intersectional, material changes we ought to focus on to improve the lives of working people in our communities.

AGAINST by Carl R.

I am against the Chapter endorsing Initiative 83. I personally don’t think that we should endorse ranked choice voting nor open primaries, and I am skeptical about the campaign’s ability to reach its goal.

Firstly: I think RCV has not been a boon for DSA or left electoral politics more broadly. Twin Cities DSA lost a competitive race by 38 votes last cycle after coming ahead in the first round, losing an attempt to unseat an incumbent that they would have won under the traditional system. Additionally, in New York City in 2021, Eric Adams won a race in the city’s first RCV election. A large part of the pitch for RCV is that it allows people to vote for aspirational candidates without running the risk of losing to the worst option. Quite clearly, this isn’t what happened in NYC - the cop candidate won the race anyways. I think this is baked into RCV when combined with single winner districts and strong executives; instead of having multiple viewpoints represented in the halls of power like in a multiparty, parliamentary system, the candidate who is most appealing to the broadest set of people on Election Day wins. This is naturally biased to moderate candidates, who can appeal to people on the right end of our coalition and people who wouldn’t vote for our candidates. I don’t think this is necessarily inherent to RCV - multiparty systems with governments that require the confidence of parliaments, like Australia, can have different outcomes. But in DC, the mayor and council chair are both elected directly by voters; they simply need to win their elections, and they have to make no concessions to us to do so. This means we need to build coalitions on Election Day, not after, and RCV is directly harmful to our ability to do that by my estimation.

Secondly: I don’t think that open primaries are particularly important, but I do think in the context of DC, it’s more likely to harm us than not. I don’t particularly like the idea of opening up our local elections to “concerned moderates” or Republican staffers or oil company lobbyists who will never register as Democrats but would be fine registering as independents to vote for the most regressive candidate on the ballot, especially when their likelihood of winning has been increased by RCV. I definitely don’t want to spend the chapter’s time or my own making it more palatable to those types of people to vote for candidates who oppose us.

Lastly: because the DC Council will have to choose to fund Initiative 83, this will require organizing far beyond Election Day. When I asked about this at the Q&A, the main plan to get the Council to implement Initiative 83 was to win by a large enough margin that they couldn’t reject it. We are seeing members of the Council actively try to undermine Initiative 82. DC voters have passed this twice now, and did so with 74% of the vote in 2022. This has not stopped the people opposing it from trying to overturn it again, and I find it concerning that this lesson hasn’t been internalized. This means the chapter would be signing up for a multi-year electoral and legislative advocacy campaign to see Initiative 83 through, and I’d rather we use that energy for things that we know build working class power in the DMV, not things that, on balance, may actually hurt our ability to win and exercise state power to benefit our class.

We have more than enough on our plate. Let’s stay focused on building working class power in the DMV.

AGAINST by Michael S.

Ranked Choice Voting is something that seems like a good idea at face-value, but it is not right for our chapter. While it could lead to more socialist electeds in other locales, RCV would make it easier for conservatives to gain power in DC while further diluting the left-progressive vote we rely on to seize and wield power. It is true that RCV would make elections more open and equitable, but this openness and equity will be extended to those who would do us harm. It is a misguided attempt at fairness in an electoral system we should be seeking to dominate.
Any reforms we pursue should not be to improve capitalist elections, but to make elections a stronger tool for building socialist power. Instead of diverting our time, energy, and resources to tweaking and refining the capitalist electoral system, we should be focusing on the winnable and meaningful campaign we have already endorsed. I am voting No on the Resolution to Endorse Initiative 83, and I encourage others to do the same.

AGAINST by Michael M.

Comrades, I urge you to vote AGAINST our chapter endorsing Initiative 83. I am pretty ambivalent on Ranked Choice Voting itself (I think the evidence on whether or not it helps progressive/socialist candidates remains to be seen); however, the Open Primary component is extremely concerning to me and not something we should support. I do not think we stand to gain anything by allowing Republicans, potential fascists, and independents to run in an open primary against our endorsed candidates and Democratic candidates in general. Not only could it shift the DC electorate to the right, but it would significantly shift our electoral strategy within the DC Democratic Party. Right now, Republicans have no footing in DC politics whatsoever (which is good), but by putting them on the same playing field as socialists, Democrats, and Independents, we risk giving them a chance to pursue a populist platform via right wing entryism and potentially win a seat on the council. I cannot emphasize enough how catastrophic this would be. Open primaries would also disrupt our ability to effectively run a big party building strategy within the Democratic Party to get more cadre DSA members elected to the council.

Moreover, my main issue with us endorsing this as a chapter is that it would take energy away from the Janeese Lewis George campaign (which we’ve already endorsed as a chapter). I do not think we should divert volunteer power away from Janeese’s campaign when we have seen the benefits of her presence on the council first hand. Janeese has a proven track record of fighting for working class people in Ward 4 and DC residents broadly. She has been a positive figure on the council and it is imperative that we protect her seat by knocking tens of thousands of doors to get her re-elected. That becomes increasingly more difficult to do if we are spreading our volunteers too thin and diverting chapter resources away from her and toward another campaign. It’s also unclear how I83 would benefit the working class or our chapter in any meaningful way; therefore, it is not worth dedicating our time, resources, or energy toward it.

For these reasons, I urge you to vote AGAINST endorsing I83, as I will be.

AGAINST by Bakari W.

Comrades, I urge you to vote no on a chapter endorsement of Initiative 83. As a member of the I83 campaign said during its Q&A, there isn’t enough data to know if open primaries and RCV will help or hurt DSA endorsed candidates’ chances to win their elections. The data on how many independents are to the left of mainstream Democrats doesn’t exist. I would guess based on other places with RCV that I83 would in aggregate be neutral for progressive/socialist candidates, benefitting us somewhat at times and hurting us somewhat at times. But that’s only a guess, because guesses are all anyone can make about the concrete effects of I83 if it’s passed (and implemented/funded, which would have other major hurdles I’ll get into).

The chapter shouldn’t be knocking thousands of doors (the chapter knocked 18,000 people’s doors for Initiative 82) and putting in hundreds of volunteer hours into a ballot initiative that’s neutral on building socialist electoral power. And if it’s the case that I83 even slightly disfavors our candidates in aggregate, which a member of the I83 campaign acknowledged is possible, then we especially shouldn’t put in the amount of work that a Metro DC DSA electoral endorsement entails. We have other, more effective efforts that need the volunteer hours.

Lastly, ballot initiatives in DC are prohibited from having spending attached to them, and it was ruled that I83 would cost money to implement. So the ballot initiative language contains a novel mechanism where implementation is contingent on the Council agreeing to spend the necessary funds (only about 1.5 million dollars over 5 years). I have no reason whatsoever to believe the Council will approve that spending without a protracted fight and legislative advocacy effort, even if I83 won by 20 or 30 points. The DC Democratic Party filed a lawsuit attempting to block I83, alleging it violates DC’s Home Rule charter. That lawsuit stalled, but Council Chair Mendelson and Councilmember Bonds still introduced an act blocking future ballot initiatives from using the same funding mechanism. This ballot initiative and its funding mechanism is opposed very strongly by a lot of people, and simply not funding and implementing I83 would be trivial for its vocal opponents on the Council. The I83 campaign doesn’t have a plan that seems adequate to win that fight. It seems based on to believe that if it wins by a large enough margin they won’t have to worry that much about it. This is unfounded. I82 is still to this day being attacked by a proposed amendment more than a year after it passed with a 50% margin! The chapter is working with a coalition to support the legislative advocacy effort that’s defending against those attacks on I82. The I83 campaign does not have I82’s coalition and could not outline a satisfactory advocacy plan to get it through the council during the Q&A.

So even if we spent hundreds of hours gathering petition signatures and knocking doors, and I83 passed, we would still be in for a months/years-long fight to implement it, without a sufficient plan or coalition. All for a ballot initiative that we don’t have reason to believe will build our electoral power. It is not worth it, we have other things to do. Please, vote NO on endorsing I83.

AGAINST by Stuart K.

I’ll be voting NO on our DSA chapter endorsing Initiative 83, which would bring ranked choice voting and open primaries to elections in DC. If Initiative 83 is ultimately approved by DC voters, both provisions must also receive funding approval by the DC Council to take effect.

I’m opposing our chapter’s endorsement of Initiative 83 for three reasons, which are mostly due to uncertainty about effects of ranked choice voting and whether the DC Council will implement the measure. These three reasons are detailed below:

  • First, allowing for open primaries in DC would run the risk of shifting the DC primary electorate to the right. Despite claims to the contrary by proponents of ranked choice voting, the sponsors of this resolution have failed to provide sufficient evidence showing that ranked choice voting would not result in more conservative-leaning voters participating in Democratic primaries.

  • Second, it’s unclear whether ranked choice voting would make it even harder for socialists and progressives to win against centrist Democrats. For example, in the Minneapolis city council election last year, ranked choice voting resulted in a candidate endorsed by Twin Cities DSA winning in the first round of the election but losing the final tally of ranked-choice votes in the second round to a more moderate candidate.

  • Third, if Initiative 83 wins, the DC Council may still not fund the implementation of the law. What’s more, the Initiative 83 campaign committee does not include a plan to ensure that the council funds implementation on the campaign website’s FAQ section. I have concerns about our DSA chapter focusing volunteer resources on a ballot initiative campaign if there’s a chance that—even if that campaign wins on Election Day—the DC Council still blocks the law from taking effect.

As a result of the reasons listed above, I’m voting NO on our chapter endorsing Initiative 83, and I hope fellow Metro DC DSA members do the same.