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Got Vote? | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Got Vote?

There are nearly 600,000 citizens in the District of Columbia – more residents than in Wyoming and nearly as many as in six other states with populations under one million.

Yet the people of the District have no voting representation in Congress.

They pay the second highest per capita federal income taxes but have no say in how those revenues are used. No matter the issue – the war, healthcare, energy policy – DC residents have no vote through which to impact decision-making.

Consider the War in Iraq: according to the National Priorities Project, DC residents have funded it to the tune of $1.6 billion and have lost three soldiers with fifteen more wounded.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee said this year that the lack of representation is a human-rights violation. But a bipartisan bill – the DC Voting Rights Act – would right this wrong.

The legislation would give the District a voting member in the House and add an additional seat for largely Republican Utah (which was less than 1000 people short of meriting an added seat, according to the 2000 Census). The bipartisan bill was approved 29-4 last spring by the House Committee on Government Reform. In September – at a hearing of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution – scholars and lawmakers expressed unanimous consent that denying DC residents a vote in Congress must be corrected. Finally, today, the Utah legislature is expected to approve a redistricting map that further clears the way for the bill's approval.

This lame-duck Congress has an opportunity to finish the job, but in a discouraging sign on Sunday the bill did not appear on the released floor schedule for the session. Tomorrow, DC Vote will hold its Congress Day to lobby members on the legislation. If you can't attend the event in person, take a moment to contact your representative.

In 1893 Frederick Douglass stated, "Regarding their political rights, residents of the nation's capital are not really citizens but practically aliens in their own country." Certainly in the 21st century our democracy should be sufficiently robust to guarantee that no citizen is taxed without voting representation in Congress.

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