Voting in D.C. Is Different But Still Important, Residents Say

On the cold evening of Nov.  2, 2010, Washington residents came out in the final moments of the midterm elections to cast their ballots at Garnett Patterson Middle School at 10thand U Streets.

By 7 p.m. about 700 people had already come out to the polling center to vote and people were still trickling in as the polls prepared to close.

“The more people that come out this time are interested in what the politics are about,” said Peter Raia, an incumbent Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the U Street Corridor. “The last time people came out was during the presidential race, so when people come out this time, they’re really interested in the politics.”

The politics of this midterm race have become a glaring issue in recent weeks on the national level, but in D.C., politics run a different course.  Whereas voters in Maryland are voting to retain or oust their current Congressional representatives, the 336,118 D.C. voters do not have that option. In Washington voters elect a delegate to the House of Representatives who has no voting power, but can represent the District on House committees. This election will decide the next mayor, House of Representatives delegate and local council members for the next term.   

Donny Malles, a two-and-a-half year resident of Ward 1, feels it is important that D.C. voters utilize the representation they have to benefit the areas in which they live.

“It is different here,” said Malles, who is originally from Seattle. “We don’t seat the same seats as other states. It’s important to come out and vote for a representative that is a good candidate for the neighborhood and for the city.”

Hilary Wanke, a Kansas native who has lived in D.C. for only three months, noticed the difference between voting in a state and voting in the district during the mayoral primary.

“In Kansas, party politics are very out there,” said Wanke, 30. “[There] we rarely get a democratic candidate, but here the primary was left-leaning and it seemed to make a bigger difference here than the midterm.”

Aaron Spencer, who is running against Raia for ANC 1B02, is disappointed that his vote doesn’t make an impact on the national level, but still thinks the voters of D.C. should get out and vote.

“It’s important that people still get out and be heard,” Spencer said. “Otherwise we kind of stop short of the many things we can accomplish at this point.”