Testimony of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, 01/27/2009
Testimony of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher
before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties
of the House Committee on the Judiciary
January 27, 2009
Mr. Chairman, the denial of federal voting rights to the residents of the District of Columbia is an injustice that has persisted for over 200 years, and which must be remedied. However, the remedy that is fashioned must not violate the Constitution of the United States. That is where I believe that H.R. 157 fails the test. As you will hear from Prof. Jonathan Turley, the Constitution is clear that Representatives can only come from states, not from federal enclaves under the authority of Congress.
Thus, although it appears that with the new lineup in Washington that H.R. 157 will be passed by the House and Senate and will be signed into law by our new President, it has virtually no chance of surviving the scrutiny of the U.S. Supreme Court. So the main point of my testimony today is not to argue against the passage of H.R. 157, which appears to be a foregone conclusion, but to present to the subcommittee the benefits of my “Plan B”, otherwise known as H.R. 665, the District of Columbia Voting Rights Restoration Act of 2009.
H.R. 665, is a “Plan B” that’s actually better than “Plan A”. H.R. 665 would restore the rights that D.C. residents had to vote in Maryland’s federal elections after the creation of the District of Columbia, but prior to Congress fully exercising its power of “exclusive legislation” over the District in 1800. By doing so, H.R. 665 provides not just voting representation in the House, but in the Senate as well, and gives D.C. residents the ability to swing 11 Maryland electoral votes, rather than the 3 they now have to themselves. And since H.R. 665 provides federal representation through the state of Maryland, it complies with the Constitution’s requirement that federal representatives come through states.
Although getting to vote for federal representatives without voting for state officials seems unusual, it is not unprecedented, and precedent shows it is within congressional authority. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act requires states to allow their former residents (and children of former residents) living abroad to vote in their federal (but not state and local) elections. The UOCAVA remains unchallenged on constitutional grounds. Another example is the federal law that permitted 18-year-olds to vote. After a constitutional challenge, the portion of the law that required states to allow 18-year-olds to vote in their federal elections was upheld, while the portion that required states to allow such voting in their state and local elections was found unconstitutional. That court decision led to the quick ratification of the 26th Amendment, permitting 18-year-olds to vote in all elections.
Mr. Chairman, when this subcommittee revisits the issue of D.C. federal representation after H.R. 157 is found to be unconstitutional, H.R. 665 will still be available as a solution. I hope at that time that the subcommittee will give it greater consideration than it will give it today.