For Immediate Release
/ October 9th 2009

DC Council Approves Landmark Election Reform Legislation

Pre-registration, study of automatic registration take steps toward universal voter registration

For Immediate Release: October 9, 2009

Paul Fidalgo, communications director - paul(at)
Adam Fogel, Right to Vote director - afogel(at)

The Washington D.C. City Council unanimously approved the Omnibus Election Reform Act of 2009 on Tuesday. If given final approval at the council's next meeting (scheduled next month), this landmark piece of legislation will usher in a wave of significant improvements to the District's voting and registration rules to bring more residents into the political process, and will commission a study of automatic voter registration--in which all eligible voters in the District would be automatically registered to vote.

The bill, sponsored by council members Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), Harry Thomas, Jr. (D-Ward 5), and Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), includes other such FairVote-backed reforms as pre-registration for 16 and 17-year olds, primary voting for 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the general election, provisions for early voting and Election Day registration.

FairVote's Right to Vote director Adam Fogel testified before the council in July in favor of the bill (see complete tesimony here), and hailed this important step in its passage, stating, "It speaks well of the District's commitment to democracy that this bill received unanimous approval from the council. This gives Washington, D.C. a chance to be a shining example to the rest of the nation. We want to praise in particular the careful and thorough process conducted by Councilwoman Mary Cheh and her staff as they collected comments and analysis from the public and developed a package of reforms with broad council support." Many of the bill's provisions were outlined by Fogel and executive director Rob Richie in their testimony before the council earlier this year (see Richie's testimony here), and in Fogel's Washington Post op-ed from this past April. The bill received broad support from a number of groups including DC for Democracy, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Demos, among many others.

"One of our long-term goals is for universal voter registration," said Fogel. "Most significantly, reforms such as pre-registration and the study of automatic registration bring us closer to realizing that ideal. A reform like Election Day registration is an important step toward improving our electoral system, but pre-registration and automatic registration will truly help our democracy become one in which the desire to participate is assumed, rather than a system with disparate rules from locality to locality, littered with unnecessary obstacles to having one's vote counted."

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Established in 1992, FairVote is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that educates and enlivens discourse on how best to achieve a democracy that respects every voice and every vote. We pursue innovative research, strategic outreach and civic education in order to promote fair access to political participation, fair elections, and fair representation. For more information, contact communications director Paul Fidalgo at paul(at) or (301) 270-4616.