As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

No Taxation Without Representation

Residents of DC may finally get a vote in the House under a compromise plan that was reintroduced in the Congress today.

The D.C. House Voting Rights Act will be reintroduced by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Democrat and the District's non-voting House member, and Sens. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, and Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican.

The legislation would give one House vote to the District and a fourth one to Utah, which narrowly missed getting an additional seat after the last U.S. Census. Utah, which traditionally leans to the right politically, now has one Democrat and two Republicans in the House and is the next to receive a new seat based on the last census.

"Men and women of the District have fought bravely in our wars, many giving their lives in defense of our country, yet they have no vote on the serious questions of war and peace," Mr. Lieberman said.

If the bill makes it through Congress, it will increase the number of House members for the first time in 96 years.

Obama was a co-sponsor of this bill in the last Congress. He would support it, and with expanded numbers in the Senate, where it got 57 votes the last time around, I would guess that it has a very good chance of passage.

It's absurd that it's taken this long and requires this compromise with Utah. DC got electoral college representation in 1961, and a voting rights Constitutional amendment passed the Congress in 1978 (it failed to get 3/4 of the states to ratify within the seven-year window). It's absurd that we have 581,000 Americans with no voting representation in Congress. If 580,000 white people in Oklahoma were being denied voting rights, you can bet this would have been cleared up by now.

If anything, the proposal isn't bold enough. To rebut the Constitutionality claims, you could give DC statehood and create a small federal district around the White House and government buildings that wouldn't disenfranchise a single American. DC has more residents than Wyoming, so it's not an exceptional scenario. If that was too politically thorny you could retrocede that portion into Virginia or Maryland, and create the same federal district. Furthermore, since the House hasn't expanded their ranks in 96 years and yet the population has doubled many times over, it would make a lot of sense to expand the Congress to 500 members or more, to put the representatives closer to the people they represent.

But this bill at the very least would be an improvement and a victory for democracy. What is being done right now is unconscionable.

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