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A Real Plan for DC Voting Rights and Home Rule

  • We believe that residents of the District of Columbia should have voting rights in the US Senate and House of Representatives equal to those of all other Americans.
  • We support Maryland-based solutions that provide full voting rights in the House and Senate and real home-rule for the residents of the District of Columbia.
  • Our two-part plan calls for Congress to restore the right of DC residents to vote as part of the Maryland electorate for congressional representation, and to support Washington becoming a new home-rule city in Maryland.

Contact Us

Committee for the Capital City
PO Box 77443
Washington, DC 20013-8443
202-265-0200
info@cityhoodfordc.dev
John Forster, "Bill Provides Viable Voting Rights Solution" The Northwest Current, 05/19/2004 PDF Print E-mail
The Northwest Current
May 19, 2004

Bill Provides Viable Voting Rights Solution

VIEWPOINT
By John Forster

Voters in Washington, D.C., are virtually unanimous in their desire for congressional voting rights equal to all other Americans. What will it take for us to gain these rights?

Any proposal to solve this 200-year old problem must deal with three realities:

   1. Fairness dictates that D.C. residents must be represented in both the House and Senate.
   2. The Constitution specifies that only states can have senators and representatives.
   3. History and political realities indicate that gaining two senators exclusively for D.C. through either statehood or a constitutional amendment will not happen.

There is a remedy that addresses each of these realities. The District of Columbia Voting Rights Restoration Act of 2004 (H.R. 3709), introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., on Jan. 20, provides District residents full voting rights in Congress by restoring the right of D.C. residents to participate in Maryland federal elections.

D.C. residents voted in Maryland federal elections for 10 years after Congress established the District of Columbia in 1791. During this period, one District resident was part of the Maryland delegation in the House, and a resident of Alexandria ò then also part of the District ò represented Virginia.

The right to vote in Maryland federal elections ended when Congress enacted the Organic Act of 1801. H.R. 3709 restores these rights, allowing us to vote for two senators, one representative and president as part of the Maryland electorate. The bill provides that District residents may serve as senators or representatives, the same right Congress has provided the residents of all other federal enclaves.

Mindful of the realities of practical politics, H.R. 3709 creates two new representatives in the House until the 2010 census. One of the seats is for Utah, which failed by a handful of people to get a fourth congressional district in 2000. A new congressional district for D.C. would balance this presumably Republican seat, thereby maintaining the current party alignment in the House. Permitting D.C. residents to vote for U.S. senators from Maryland would not alter the partisan balance in the Senate.

After the 2010 census, the DistrictÇs population would be included in MarylandÇs total for purposes of reapportioning seats in the House of Representatives. The bill provides that when those seats are redistricted within Maryland, the District of Columbia would be kept within a single congressional district. Federal courts have upheld the authority of Congress to shape congressional districts.

It is worth noting that in 1986, Congress empowered another group of unrepresented citizens. U.S. citizens who live overseas now vote in the federal elections of the state from which they can last claim a connection, even if they have lived abroad all their lives.

On June 23, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., will hold hearings on H.R. 3709, other D.C. voting-rights bills by Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., as well as a proposal of his own. For more information about these bills, go to the Web sites of the Committee for the Capital City (www.washingtonmd.org) or DC Vote (www. dcvote.org).

Only H.R. 3709 provides full voting rights for D.C. residents in a constitutional, bipartisan approach that could be approved in the near future.

John Forster, an American University Park resident, serves as activities coordinator for the Committee for the Capital City.