Voting! It’s so patriotic! I’ve never missed an election (even when I was studying abroad in Australia and generally tipsy the entire time). I get really into voting. Not so much into politics, what with the big bird, and the binders and all the yelling, but I feel extremely strongly about exercising my right to vote. And this, my friends, is my first big DC election.
Having resided in Arlington for most of my post-college twenties, I was used to um… normal politics. You know, senate races that aren’t prefaced with the term “shadow” and local county elections. But DC is not… normal. That’s why we love her. We have all kinds of whackadoo local representation, and earlier this month I decided it was time to buckle down and be a responsible citizen and figure it all out. So one day in early October, I sat down do ALL THE VOTING RESEARCH! And I came upon this weird thing called the ANC, and got rull, rull confused.
I’m a relatively smart person, and I pay attention, but I was seriously confused about my ANC. There were letters, and numbers and oh my. Was I voting for 4C? 7D? Why are there numbers? What does it do? Why is it there? WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? (Oh. Well, that I know. 42.)
Anyways, I got around to asking my smart, competent friends who live in DC about their ANC commissioner, and none of them really knew what an ANC was. Well, okay then. I vaguely recollected the ANC thing from a post Dave Stroup wrote for WLDC a while ago, so I started there. That was helpful. But I still had questions. So I did a whole lot of grilling of the WLDC staff, and a whole lot of googling. And the rest of this post is what I figured out, so that you, too, can be an informed DC voter.
ARE YOU READY?
PART ONE: What the crap do they do?
Representatives from ANCs are elected to advise the District government on issues relating to:
- social service programs
- police protection
The DC Gov website says: “The Advisory Neighborhood Commissions consider a wide range of policies and programs affecting their neighborhoods, including traffic, parking, recreation, street improvements, liquor licenses, zoning, economic development, police protection, sanitation and trash collection, and the District’s annual budget.”
Think: rats, sidewalks, building permits, parking, alcohol licenses, stop signs, crosswalks. The things that you live with on a daily basis.
DC Gov goes on to say, “In each of these areas, the intent of the ANC legislation is to ensure input from an advisory board that is made up of the residents of the neighborhoods that are directly affected by government action. The ANCs are the body of government with the closest official ties to the people in a neighborhood. The ANCs present their positions and recommendations on issues to various District government agencies, the Executive Branch, and the Council. They also present testimony to independent agencies, boards, and commissions, usually under the rules of procedure specific to those entities. By law, the ANCs may also present their positions to Federal agencies.”
So the ANC deals with things that are practical about where you live. These are things that are important to you, the little things that makes you love or hate your neighborhood. The rat problem 311 isn’t fixing? You could totally be complaining to your ANC rep right now. You want a playground put in near you? Call your ANC rep! They are just so handy, those ANC peeps. They are your voice in the community, and ANCs represent neighborhood opinions to the City Council. They also have some local grant money that they can use at their discretion, and they work with city departments, like DCPS, DC Water, DDOT and more. They bring your concerns to the people who can help.
So now that you know why you should care, let’s figure out which ANC you are in, shall we?
PART TWO: Figuring out which ANC you are a part of.
Use the Citizens Atlas right now, and meet me back here. I’ll wait.
Ok, good job. Now you know which ANC you are in, the ANC will probably listed something like 6C05. That number is confusing. Here’s the breakdown;
- There are eight wards in DC. That’s that first number, your ward. I’m silently judging you right now if you didn’t already know what ward you live in.
- Each of the eight wards are broken down subdivisions, represented by letters (A,B,C, etc.). This is your ANC. In our example, ANC 6C.
- Each of the subdivisions are broken down into single member districts (that’s a number at the end). SMD are made up of about 2,000 people. So in neighborhoods that are rowhomes, like our example of Capitol Hill, that’s probably somewhere about 10 blocks long and three blocks wide. They re-jigger them with the census, so double check and make sure your SMD is still the same as it was last election.
SO: What you are going to be voting for is the representative from your 2,000 person SMD to your ANC. They will be your voice whenever something like tree trimming, new stoplight installation, a robbery or a new coffee shop happens around you and you have something to say about it.
PART THREE: Finding out who your commissioner is or could be.
Now it’s time to get informed about who is running for your ANC spot (if anyone, sometimes no one steps up, and that’s lame). You can do that on the DC Board of Elections and Ethics website. (Sidenote: We Love DC’s own Tiffany Bridge is running unopposed in 5B03. Yay, Tiff!) Anyways, go look at that and I’ll be right here when you get back.
Nice work, you are really good at that clicking-between-tabs thing, stud.
So now, you have either found one of three things:
1) There is no one running for your ANC. That is lame. You should totally consider running. Especially since you’re so good at the internet, and all.
2) There is one candidate. Well, slightly less exciting for you, but you should google around and see if you can find their website. Some ANC reps have really handy blogs or email listserves that keep you informed of all kinds of things that you didn’t know you care about, but actually do. I’m currently mildly worked up about a stoplight going in near me that I found out from my handy ANC listserve emails.
3) You have a race! Lucky you! Now it’s time to make some decisions.
PART FOUR: Figuring out who to vote for.
This can be done with some good internet skills. First, I’d suggest typing in their name and ANC into google. Try that and see where that gets you. If it gets you a website, that’s helpful. If you get an email address, that’s even more helpful. I live on Capitol Hill, so I had some pretty specific questions about the Hine redevelopment, as well as safety on the Hill after TC Maslin was beaten in the heart of our neighborhood, shaking me to the core. Both candidates were super helpful and explained their plans to me.
Now, if that isn’t so useful, and google isn’t getting you much, like a website or an email address (your ANC commissioner candidate is bad at the internet and they should feel bad), then try other sources. The League of Women Voters in DC has invited all of the ANC candidates to post positions on their voter guide. So check that out. Local blog Hill is Home has been posting Ward 6 candidate statements for weeks now, so they’re helpful as well, if you’re in 6. New Columbia Heights is doing the same type thing, so you can head there. If you know of other blogs/websites with collections of position statements, please leave them in the comments. Kthanks.
So now you’re informed. You’ve figured out what an ANC does, what SMD you live in, who is running for your SMD and who you’re going to vote for. Now, you must vote.
PART FIVE: Going to vote. Like a champion. Go you!
But where, you ask?
Seriously? Do I have to help you do ALL the steps? Fine.
And now you’re all ready to vote for your ANC! I’m so proud of you, you fantastic person, you. Have I told you that you have nice hair? Well you do. Now go vote.