Advocates Urge Ballot Awareness: Initiative 81
On Back of DC Mail-In Ballot
In some Wards, Initiative 81 is the only item on the back of DC Residents’ ballots. Advocates express concern for undervote, call for general education campaign.
Washington DC – As ballots arrive across the District in DC’s first vote-by-mail heavy election, another voting challenge has arisen: in many parts of the District, Initiative 81 is the only item on the back of voters’ ballots. As DC voters may be unfamiliar with mail-in voting, advocates are asking for a public service education campaign to ensure that voters know that their ballot is two-sided. Initiative 81, the only ballot initiative before voters this fall, would reform DC police priorities to ensure that DC residents benefiting from plant and fungi medicines are not police targets. These natural medicines can help those suffering from depression, anxiety, and addiction.
“Flip your ballot to the back to vote Yes on Initiative 81,” said Initiative 81 Proposer and Campaign Chairwoman Melissa Lavasani. Lavasani, a Ward 6 resident and mother of two who used plant medicines to overcome postpartum depression added, “Plant medicines helped save my life. Every DC voter should have the opportunity to vote on Initiative 81 which would make a real difference in the lives of residents across the District and help end part of the destructive war on drugs.”
Initiative 81 qualified for the November ballot despite the unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus pandemic. Volunteers and campaign organizers worked tirelessly to gather more than 25,477 valid signatures from DC voters to put the initiative on the ballot.
Organizers were motivated to pursue Initiative 81 to rearrange police priorities away from arrests and towards a system that prioritizes treatment and healing. The urgency of these reforms intensified over the summer as the Black Lives Matter movement demanded a systemic overhaul of police priorities. Now that the 2020 election is here, advocates are worried that an issue that has dominated headlines and means so much to DC voters will be lost without more awareness about how ballots are laid out.
“With so much at stake in the 2020 election, there are many urgent priorities for people to vote on. Initiative 81 is just one of many things voters will be looking for, but they need to know where to find it,” said Erin Dunne, Communications Director for the Initiative. “Flip over your ballot and vote Yes!”
For more information about Initiative 81, please visit our website www.DecrimNatureDC.org .