Once again, the Republicans are playing games with the residents of the District of Columbia.
There is a bill in Congress that would, at long last, grant D.C. a full voting member in the House of Representatives as well as granting an additional representative from the state of Utah. However, Republicans, who have long since opposed any effort to enfranchise the District, have inserted distasteful amendments into the bill in an effort to derail the measure.
Why have Republicans been so against this effort for so long? They have many arguments for this, some of which hold a hint of validity, but most of them fail on their face. Their arguments, rebutted:
- Granting the District a vote in Congress would be unconstitutional because the District is not a state.
This is the only argument which I actually agree with, but it still fails. If the District does not get representation because it is not a state, then the other provisions of the Constitution, namely the Bill of Rights, should not apply either. This means that the Second Amendment (you know the one, that one about the right to bear arms) wouldn’t apply to the District, so they should be able to pass whatever gun laws they like. However, the District’s previous ban on guns was struck down last year based on the Second Amendment argument. So Republicans need to decide: does the Constitution apply to the District or not? (It is worth noting that in the case of the D.C. gun ban, an appeals court judge dissented on the decision to strike the ban on the grounds that the District was not a state and thus the Second Amendment did not apply.)
- D.C.’s population is too small to warrant a full representative vote in Congress.
Well, then you’d better rescind Wyoming’s right to have a vote in Congress as well. While you’re at it, you’d better eliminate its senators too. That’s because the state that has more cattle than people has a human population of 532,668 (according to the 2000 census) while the District of Columbia boasts 591,833 residents. So if the Equity State can have a voting congressman and two voting senators, then the population argument fails.
- The District was created as a federal area, designed to house the institutions of government and not a civilian population.
This is simply incorrect. When the District of Columbia was formed, the already established communities of Georgetown (which was then the port of Montgomery County, Maryland) and Alexandria (on the Virginia side of the Potomac River) were incorporated into the District. Residents of these areas, who had voting representation in Congress prior to the establishment of the District, subsequently lost this right. Alexandria, along with present-day Arlington County, were reincorporated into the commonwealth of Virginia 1846 and those residents regained their representation in Congress. However, the portion of the District north of the Potomac River remains disenfranchised.
- There is no public outcry for the District to have voting rights.
Do not confuse ignorance of the District’s plight with a lack of concern with the District’s situation. The majority of American’s believe that District residents have the same voting representation as enjoyed by other American citizens. It is understandable that Americans would only assume that the heart of American democracy would have the same democratic representation as the rest of its citizenry.
What are the real reasons that Republicans oppose District voting rights? Could it be because the residents of the District are 75% African-American and 98% Democratic? Nah, that can’t be it.
It is unfathomable that American citizens, who pay federal income taxes and who send their sons and daughters off to Afghanistan and Iraq to fight for their freedom and democracy, have no vote in the legislative body that determines how taxes are spent and where our soldiers are sent. No other democracy in the world denies the citizens of its capital voting representation in its legislature. It is long past time that the District of Columbia receives its due, whether through the bill currently in Congress, or through a constitutional amendment.
For more information on the District’s struggle to gain a vote in Congress, visit http://www.dcvote.org. This site has no affiliation with dcvote.org and all opinions expressed in this post are my own. — Tracy Rotton