Political leaders who operate east of the Anacostia River are working to turn out voters for the Nov. 8 general election even though only one contest has drawn the attention of the electorate.
“We are only 24 days away from the general election,” said Troy Donte Prestwood, president of the Ward 8 Democrats. “We had a two-and-a-half percent increase in voters during the primary. We want Ward 8 voters to turn out this time, too.”
Political observers say the at-large D.C. Council race which features three lawmakers — Democrat Anita Bonds, independent Elissa Silverman and Democrat-turned-independent Kenyan McDuffie — has become the only notable contest on the general election ballot.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Council members Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 2) and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) face no electoral threats to their reelections while Democrats Zachary Parker of Ward 5 and Matt Frumin of Ward 3 are substantial favorites in their bids to serve on the city’s legislative body.
Democrat Brian Schwalb, a candidate for attorney general candidate, has no opposition in the general election. Despite the dearth of electoral competition, east of the river leaders are urging their residents to vote to show the city that they are politically and civically engaged.
East of the river turnout statistics
D.C. Board of Elections statistics reveal as of Sept. 30, there are 66,158 registered voters in Ward 7 and 61,367 in Ward 8. Those numbers stand in contrast to neighboring Ward 6, which has 68,977. The Democrats hold a substantial advantage in party registration in both wards with 81% in Ward 7 and 78% in Ward 8.
Elections board statistics report that during the June 21 primary, 32.36% of city voters participated in the process. However, both Wards 7 and 8 lagged behind the rest of the city with 26.71% and 20.71%, respectively, taking part in the primary. Ward 3 had the highest percentage of voters in any ward with 43.51% of its voters participating in the primary.
In the last general election in 2020, statistics showed 66.90% of District voters participated. Ward 7 turned out at 63.14% and Ward 8 had 54.80%. In comparison, 75.30% of registered voters in Ward 3 voted in that general election.
Leaders push for strong turnout
In lieu of the normal Ward 8 Democrats meeting, Prestwood held a special gathering at the Busboys & Poets restaurant and bar in the historic Anacostia neighborhood on Oct. 15. The gathering served as a get-out-the-vote rally to encourage Ward 8 residents to cast a ballot in the general election. Bonds, Schwalb and Mendelson spoke to the gathering about the importance of voting. Silverman made an appearance at the rally but didn’t speak.
“We need to get out everyone we know who is eligible to vote,” Bonds said. “We need to push as hard as we can to get the vote out. Whether we like it or not, it is about our freedom.”
Charles Wilson, chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, encouraged the members to urge their friends and family to vote, and especially for Democrats.
Prestwood spoke for 15 minutes about the latest developments in the election process. He said voters should be aware of changes in their advisory neighborhood commissions in that they may have been moved as a result of the recent redistricting process. Prestwood said the days of waiting in lines at the polls on Election Day are over.
“Voters can mail their ballots in, they can take their ballots to a drop box or go to an early voting center,” he said. “You can vote anywhere in the city, whether it is close to where you work or go to school and you can drop your ballot off in any drop box in the city.”
Prestwood said the voting precinct system led by captains may no longer serve a purpose. He said with the new modes of voting in the city, a precinct captain may not need to visit voters to inform them about the electoral process.
“What we do with voting precincts in the city is something city leaders need to look at,” he said.
Wendell Felder serves as the chairperson of the Ward 7 Democrats. Felder said Ward 7 leaders are working to ensure a strong turn out on Election Day.
“We are highly engaged in getting people to vote,” Felder said. “We are stressing voting on all of our social media accounts and canvassing neighborhoods to get the word out. Text messaging will also be a part of our strategy. In addition, we are putting together a one-pager explaining the details of the voting process so people won’t get confused.”
Like Prestwood, Felder has heard some residents say that only one contest has become viable and voting doesn’t matter this time. He disagrees with election naysayers.
“All elections matter,” he said. “One vote can make a difference in an election. We strongly encourage citizens to exercise this right.”