DC Community Letter in Support of Safe, Fair, and Accessible Elections


The District of Columbia is in the midst of an unprecedented public health emergency. Mayor Bowser has taken steps to slow community transmission of COVID-19 (coronavirus) by temporarily closing schools and non-essential businesses, as well as prohibiting gatherings of more than ten people. The DC Board of Elections has announced a Vote Safe DC campaign in response to the public health emergency, which includes efforts to encourage voters to stay home and request absentee ballots for the June 2nd primary and June 16th special election in Ward 2.

DC Board of Elections has done a good job of providing many options to request an absentee ballot online, by phone, email and mail, as well as provide ample early vote opportunities for weeks before the election. We would have liked ballots to be mailed to every voter, but recognize that the timing of the upcoming election makes that difficult.

To: Mayor Bowser, DC Council, DC Board of Elections

We, the undersigned DC residents, organizations, elected officials, candidates, and community leaders, call on the Mayor, the DC Council, and the DC Board of Elections to take action to ensure robust and resilient voting processes in the District, including through a sustained effort to move toward full vote-by-mail elections while maintaining in-person voting options. Vote-by-mail elections offer increased voter convenience and satisfaction, as well as increased voter participation.

We believe that the DC government must do everything in its power to make voting absentee as easy as possible for the upcoming June elections. In addition, while we understand that mailing a ballot to every voter in the District is not feasible for the June primary elections, we also believe the public health emergency has demonstrated the importance of vote-by-mail elections, and the District should both commit to vote-by-mail elections in the long-term and take important steps immediately toward implementation this November.

Specifically, we believe the following measures related to absentee ballot requests, voter registration outreach and education, and in-person voting will reduce logistical hurdles, maximize participation, and ensure election security for the upcoming June 2nd primary and June 16th special election:

Absentee Ballot Requests:

  • Ensure informational materials regarding how to request an absentee ballot are accurate, easy to understand, and also available in Spanish and Amharic.

  • Allow web-based submission of valid absentee ballot requests via a webpage accessible on all browsers on desktop and mobile devices. Web submission should include a simple mechanism (such as photo upload or digital signature) to meet the signature requirement, without necessitating the download of an app or pdf.

  • Ensure the Vote4DC app is functional on multiple devices and includes up-to-date information.

  • Ensure adequate staffing of DC Board of Elections phone lines to facilitate prompt processing of phone-based absentee ballot requests.

  • Include instructions in English, Spanish, and Amharic on all mailed absentee ballot request forms, and include a postage paid self-sealing return envelope for the request.

  • Develop and implement a robust plan to reach voters, such as seniors, individuals with disabilities, non-English speakers, and individuals who may not have a fixed address (individuals experiencing homelessness), including by using the emergency alert system and making robocalls to share information about how to request an absentee ballot.

  • Institute a reporting mechanism to track the number of individuals requesting absentee ballots and determine any noticeable gaps to facilitate efforts among elected officials, agencies, and others to target populations that may have been overlooked.
    Implement a system for voters to be able to track where their absentee ballot is in the process (request received, ballot mailed, ballot received, etc.).

Voter Registration Outreach & Education:

  • Mail a letter to all DC addresses that do not have registered voters, with clear, easy-to-understand instructions on voting changes for the June primary and how to register to vote, update your address, or request an absentee ballot.

  • Allow new voters to simultaneously register/update their address and request an absentee ballot using the same online form. Allow digital submission of needed documentation via app or website.

  • Consider steps necessary to facilitate remote voter registration, including change of address and same day registration and voting, as well as mechanisms to share this information with voters and potential voters.

In-Person Voting:

  • Publicize broadly and with advance notice which voting centers will be open and what measures will be taken to ensure public health and safety for both the June Primary election and Ward 2 special election.

  • Communicate that counting votes by mail will significantly delay election results, since ballots postmarked on election day should be counted, and may not be received until after election day.

  • Make the vote count transparent, with live updates of the count and bipartisan observers able to ask questions of designated personnel and view ballot judging.

In addition, we believe the public health emergency demonstrates the concrete and immediate need to commit to full vote-by-mail elections, which eight members of the DC Council supported in proposed legislation in 2019, and the following steps are necessary to do so:

  • Commit to full implementation of vote-by-mail with continued in-person voting options by November 2020, if possible, or as soon as possible thereafter.

  • Develop and release to the public a comprehensive, step-by-step plan for full vote-by-mail elections. The steps taken now for purposes of the upcoming June 2nd primary and June 16th special election should lay the groundwork for moving toward full vote-by-mail elections as soon as possible. The plan should include details regarding resources necessary for printing, mailing (including return mail), publicly processing and recording votes by mail; timeline; and possible hurdles.

  • Look to best practices from other states that have implemented vote-by-mail elections.

We believe ensuring robust outreach to voters, accessible voting procedures that protect public health and safety, and taking steps now toward future vote-by-mail elections will ensure fulsome and resilient voting processes in the District. Thank you for the measures committed to thus far and efforts to communicate changes with the public. We look forward to additional details.


  • 350 DC
  • ACLU of the District of Columbia
  • Amir Irani, ANC 1C Chairperson
  • Anthony Lorenzo Green, ANC 7C04 Commissioner; DC Council Candidate, Ward 7
  • Black Lives Matter DC
  • Christina Henderson, DC Council Candidate, At-Large
  • Corey Holman, ANC 6B06 Commissioner
  • DC Environmental Network
  • DC for Democracy
  • DC Statehood Green Party
  • Delicious Democracy
  • Detrick Campbell, ANC 2A07 Commissioner
  • Ed Lazere, DC Council Candidate, At-Large
  • Erin Palmer, ANC 4B02 Commissioner
  • Evan Yeats, ANC 4B01 Commissioner
  • Hanna Baker ANC 8A07 Commissioner
  • James Harnett, ANC 2A08 Commissioner
  • James Harnett, ANC 2A08 Commissioner
  • Janeese Lewis George, DC Council Candidate, Ward 4; DC Democratic State Committeewoman
  • Japer Bowles, ANC 1C07 Commissioner
  • Jeanné Lewis, DC Council Candidate, At-Large
  • Jews United for Justice
  • John Fanning, ANC 2F Chairman; DC Council Candidate, Ward 2
  • Jonah Goodman, ANC 4C10 Commissioner
  • Jordan Grossman, DC Council Candidate, Ward 2
  • Kelvin Brown, DC Council Candidate, Ward 7
  • Kishan Putta, ANC 2E-02 Commissioner; Chair, DC Democrats Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus; DC Council Candidate, Ward 2
  • League of Women Voters DC
  • Madeleine Stirling, ANC 2F05 Commissioner
  • Markus Batchelor, DC Council Candidate, At-Large
  • Michaela Wright, ANC 1C06 Commissioner
  • Monika Nemeth, ANC 3F06 Commissioner
  • Nonprofit Professional Employees Union
  • Ra Amin, ANC 5B04 Commissioner
  • Robb Hudson, ANC-1B Commissioner
  • Taylor Berlin, ANC 3D07 Commissioner
  • Ted Guthrie, ANC 1C03 Commissioner
  • The National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens
  • Tiffani Johnson, ANC 4B06 Commissioner
  • UNITE HERE Local 25
  • Ward 3 Democrats
  • Washington Teacher's Union Caucus
  • William Merrifield, DC Council Candidate, At-Large

Candidates for office are welcome to sign and promote this letter but this is not affiliated with any campaign