The D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety approved five long-anticipated bills, including one allowing undocumented immigrants to vote in local elections. The bills will be voted on by the full Council and then sent to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s desk.
If these bills are signed into law, it would be a huge victory for immigran it rights activists in the district, who have been working for years to get this bill passed. Undocumented immigrants are some of the most vulnerable members of our community, and they deserve to have a say in how our city is run. This bill is a step in the right direction towards making D.C. a more inclusive and welcoming place for all residents.
All bills passed unanimously and without much discussion. Here is an overview of some of the most significant bills:
The Elections Modernization Amendment Act of 2021
The bill makes a number of changes to the way elections are conducted in the district, with the goal of making it easier for residents to vote. Here are some of the key provisions of the bill:
- The bill requires the Board of Elections to send every registered voter a ballot with a prepaid postage envelope. This will make it easier for people to vote by mail, which is especially important given the ongoing pandemic.
- The bill also requires the board to place 55 or more ballot drop boxes throughout the city, establish a system to track the ballots, and publish the election data on its website, among other mandates. These changes will make it easier for people to cast their votes and track their ballots, and will make elections more transparent.
- The bill allows D.C. Public Schools employees to serve on the State Board of Education, like charter school employees are permitted to do. This will help ensure that our education system is representative of our community as a whole.
- It designates Election Day a DC Public School holiday. This will give students and teachers the day off so they can participate in democracy without having to worry about work.
The Elections Modernization Amendment Act of 2021 is a major step forward for democracy in D.C. By making it easier for people to vote and ensuring that our elections are transparent and representative, this bill will help ensure that everyone’s voice is heard in our city’s government.
The Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act
The Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act is a bill that, if passed by the full Council, would allow D.C residents that are not U.S citizens to vote in local elections. This includes voting for mayor, attorney general, Council chair, councilmembers, State Board of Education members, and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. However, they would not be able to vote for federal offices.
This bill would have the following effects:
- It would give a voice to groups that are often underrepresented and overlooked in government decisions, including immigrants and people of color.
- It would help to create a more diverse elected officials that better reflect the population they serve.
- It could increase voter turnout and participation in local elections, as people that have been disenfranchised in the past may now feel like their voice actually matters.
The Stormiyah Denson-Jackson Race and Gender Economic Damages Equality Amendment Act of 2021
This bill was named after Stormiyah Denson-Jackson, a 12 year old African American girl who tragically took her own life after enduring years of racial bullying at her school. Stormiyah’s story is a stark reminder of how much damage can be inflicted upon a person, both physically and mentally, when they are subjected to discrimination.
The bill aims to close the race and gender economic damages gap in personal injury cases. In other words, it ensures that people of color who have been wrongfully injured receive the same level of compensation as their white counterparts.
When someone is injured or killed due to the negligence of another person or entity, the victim or their family may file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. As part of the legal process, courts are tasked with assigning a dollar value to the victim’s life. This calculation takes into account a number of different factors, including the victim’s age, education, and future earnings.
Forensic economists also factor in a person’s race and gender when making this determination. Unfortunately, systemic racism and gender inequality often work against women and people of color, resulting in smaller settlements.
A woman with a bachelor’s degree is projected to earn $2.4 million in her lifetime, while a man’s projected earnings are $3.3 million. This means when calculating damages based on future earnings, a man would automatically be entitled to more than a woman.
There is also a disparity in race in terms of lifetime earnings. White and Asian workers are projected to earn $2.9 million throughout their lifetime if they have a bachelor’s degree, and Black and Latino workers are estimated to earn $2.3 million.
This new bill would prohibit courts from considering a person’s race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression when making decisions about damages in personal injury cases. This means that, if the bill passes, plaintiffs would no longer be able to receive reduced damages based on characteristics that have nothing to do with their injuries.
This bill is an important step toward ensuring that all Americans are treated fairly by the justice system. Too often, personal injury victims have their cases summarily dismissed or their damages reduced simply because of their race or gender. This bill would help ensure that all victims are given full and fair consideration by the court.