DC to Get a Vote in the House?
by Jonathan Singer, Sat May 20, 2006 at 02:45:02 PM EDT
Last week Chris noted that a plan to give the District of Columbia a full-fledged Representative in the House had been introduced with bipartisan support and that he, too, was endorsing the plan. As Mary Beth Sheridan reported yesterday for The Washington Post, that plan has now passed out of committee.
A congressional committee overwhelmingly approved a bill yesterday that would grant the District a permanent, full voting member of the House of Representatives and add another legislator from Utah.
The House Committee on Government Reform voted 29 to 4 in favor of the proposal sponsored by its chairman, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.). The measure now goes to the House Judiciary Committee, whose chairman has agreed to bring it up for a vote.
Davis said he thought the legislation could be approved by the full Congress this year. But congressional aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, were more cautious.
They noted that the Judiciary Committee is busy with other issues and might need time to analyze changes Davis recently made to his bill. In particular, to gain Democratic support, Davis agreed that the extra House seat going to Utah would be at-large, to avoid redrawing a district held by a Democrat.
On the surface, this sounds like a plan that I, like Chris, would support. Enfranchisment, particularly of underrepresented groups (such as African-Americans, of which the District is largely comprised), is always a good thing. Nevertheless, there are a few questions that I would like to see answered before this bill moves to the floor.
- Will passage of the Davis legislation inhibit the effort of granting DC full statehood -- with two Senators as well as a Representative -- rather than move it forward?
- Is it constitutional for Congress to mandate that the seat given to Utah be at-large? Unless I'm mistaken, the manner by which members are elected to the House (i.e. the designation of districts) is decided by the state government, not the federal government. If the measure is not clearly constitutional, what assurances can be given to Democrats that the Utah legislature won't redraw districts mid-census to gerrymander Democrat Jim Matheson out of office?
- How will Davis' measure affect DC's electoral votes? How will it effect those of Utah? Will it be the case that DC's electoral votes stay at 3 -- which would seem to make sense -- while Utah's increase by one, thus giving the GOP an extra electoral vote?