I Don't Have Representation in Congress

The irony of living in DC, the nation's capitol, and not having the right to representation in Congress, is rich.  I'm in a particularly odd position because I'm always asking all of you to call your representatives and Senators, and yet, I can't call my own for any impact.  That could change.

A congressional committee approved a bill yesterday granting the District a full vote in the House of Representatives, giving the measure its first victory in what will probably be weeks of fierce wrangling as it moves through Congress.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted 24 to 5 for the bill, an endorsement its supporters expected. But in a likely sign of things to come, there was feisty sparring, with opponents calling the measure unconstitutional and marshaling amendments to derail it.

The lack of voting rights in DC is a remarkable and unique holdover from the 18th century, though it's now used mostly as a way of voter suppression of the hundreds of thousands of African-Americans who live in the district.  It's personally very humiliating.  I can't engage in the most civically critical activity in a democracy simply because of where I live.  Political activity in DC splits aggressively between local and Federal politics, with many people who work in Federal politics saying things like 'everyone in DC thinks XYZ', with the word 'everyone' having a very elitist and racially tinged ring to it.  Local politics here for many residents who live Hill-centered lives is a curiosity, and the lack of Federal voting power creates an aggressively atomized city that bleeds into the culture of Federal policy-making.  You can't underestimate the demoralizing effects of stripping someone of their right to vote.  About every couple of weeks, it's a personal outrage.

If you believe that disenfranchising African-Americans en masse is a serious threat to the progressive movement and democracy, and that giving meaningful voting rights to all Americans is important, you can take action here. I, unfortunately, can't.

Tags: DC, Voting Rights (all tags)



Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

     It's blatantly unconstitutional. Virtually the first pharse in Article I is that members of the House are chosen "by the People of the several States." You need a constitutional amendment, or statehood.

by Ron Thompson 2007-03-15 01:01PM | 0 recs

   Isn't it also unconstitutional to deprive citizens of the United States the right to representation?

by cilerder86 2007-03-15 01:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Unconstitutional.

     The answer, of course, is No. The Constitution clearly contemplated that only citizens of states have representation in Congress. It's the first thing they wrote! People in Arizona were American citizens from 1848 on, but didn't have a vote in Congress until statehood in 1912.

by Ron Thompson 2007-03-15 01:10PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

Yes, my cousin Jonathan Turley testified to that yesterday.  He also contended they screwed up the severability clause, which could lead to a situation where the Utah portion was upheld, but the DC section is struck down.

If they pass it he is eager to contest it in court and is confident he could get it all thrown out.  That would be his second act of Congress successfully overturned by the Supreme Court.

by juls 2007-03-15 01:19PM | 0 recs
Not Unconstitutional

Art. 1 also says that Congress has the authority to change the time, place, and manner of electing representatives.  It's not blantantly unconstitutional.  

by Reece 2007-03-15 01:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Not Unconstitutional

Time, place and manner of 'ELECTING' reps, but not what peoples get representation.

by nathan 2007-03-15 03:39PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

I've studied the legal arguments on both sides, and it's not "blatantly" anything.  It's a difficult legal question with no way to guarantee how the courts would come out.

by Steve M 2007-03-15 01:33PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress
     How far did you have to study before coming to the 33d word, and those following it, in Article I, "to be chosen by the people of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature."?
     Which is the most numerous branch of the District of Columbia State Legislature?
     Jesus, we complain every day about the lawlessness of the Republican regime, then turn around and try to throw out paragraph 1 of Section 2 of Article I of the Constitution? As Sam Ervin said to John Ehrlichman, "I speak the English language--it's my Mother tongue." The District of Columbia is not a state. Neither is Puerto Rico. Do you think the House could vote to give voting representation to Puerto Rico? You're being played by Tom Davis, to get not only the new 4th district in Utah, but also to get rid of Democratic Rep. Scott Matheson as a result of the Republican redistricting this would make necessary.
by Ron Thompson 2007-03-15 02:06PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

You shrink the size of Washington, D.C. down to the Capitol, the White House, and the mall.  Put the rest of it into one congressional district in Maryland.  

by Valatan 2007-03-15 04:55PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

Or better, Virginia.  Maryland is already blue, Virginia needs a little nudge in that direction.

by Old Yeller 2007-03-15 06:41PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

(1) The guy's name is Jim Matheson. (2) He's a cosponsor of the legislation in its current version and earlier, so he doesn't seem to be worried about losing his seat. (3) The current version of the bill has the Utah seat as at large, so no redistricting is required.

by KCinDC 2007-03-15 07:20PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

I didn't know it was possible to have an at large seat if a state already has congressional districts.

by robliberal 2007-03-15 09:21PM | 0 recs
At-large seats

Ohio, at least, had one for quite a while. I'm not sure about other examples.

Certainly people have suggested multimember districts in the past as a way to increase minority representation, but they've never been implemented. They've never been found unconstitutional either.

by KCinDC 2007-03-16 06:33AM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

Dennis Hastert has a large seat....  Oh wait, I misread your post.

by hoose 2007-03-16 06:55AM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

I just sent it to my Congresswoman -- Nancy Pelosi.

by Paul Hogarth 2007-03-15 01:02PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

As a fellow DC resident, I feel the same pain--although I didn't expect to when I first moved here.

I'm confident the framers of the Constitution didn't intend to disenfranchise more than half a million residents.  This is an idea whose time has come... well over a decade ago.  Those who can should take the action.  I wish I could, but I'm glad the measure finally has traction--and commitments for passage--in the House.

by jzaharoff 2007-03-15 01:05PM | 0 recs

    It is good news.  It's only a shame that we have to give the voters of Utah special treatment in order to give DC citizens the right to vote.  I think this is a racial issue.

by cilerder86 2007-03-15 01:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Progress.

Rep Tom Davis pointed out that by the 2000 census, Utah qualifies to have another representative, and also that the preference is for an odd number in the House to preclude a tie vote. Therefore, moving up to 437 rather than to 436 is their recommendation.

by Books Alive 2007-03-15 01:17PM | 0 recs
I realize this.
   I know Utah was very close to getting a fourth seat.  But they didn't make it.  Most other states have to wait until 2010, but Utah gets special treatment.  We know why Tom Davis wants Utah to have another seat now - because that seat would probably be filled by a Republican.  In order to enfranchise black voters, we have to give white voters extra voting rights.  We have to balance a new Democratic seat with a Republican seat, just as the US balanced the entrance of slave states and free states in the 19th century.  We often look at our predecessors with contempt, but are we really any better?  
     If this the only we way we can get DC citizens the right to vote, it's for the best.
by cilerder86 2007-03-15 01:24PM | 0 recs
Re: I realize this.

Then you pass the bill but not have it go into effect until the next census is complete.  Not sure how else you do it besides giving one to Utah and 1 to DC.

by yitbos96bb 2007-03-15 01:59PM | 0 recs
Re: I realize this.

That wouldn't work. The whole point of the extra seat is that it happens to go to Utah for now, so it gives some Republicans a reason to vote for it. Just being the right thing to do isn't enough when there's a partisan disadvantage.

by KCinDC 2007-03-15 02:04PM | 0 recs
Re: I realize this.

Oh I agree.. just addressing Cinder's complaints... I hate to say it though but given housing trends this decade, its most likely that seat will go to a red seat period.

by yitbos96bb 2007-03-15 02:06PM | 0 recs
Re: I realize this.

It's certainly possible, but it's also possible it could keep a more Democratic state from losing a seat. It all depends on what the exact census figures end up being.

by KCinDC 2007-03-15 02:08PM | 0 recs
Re: I realize this.

Utah will gain a seat (and an electoral vote) in the 2010 Census.  Thus, they get an additional seat for two terms and an additional electoral vote for the 2008 election, DC's vote would be forever (as long as Congress & the Supreme Court doesn't change it).  

by howardpark 2007-03-15 04:26PM | 0 recs
"Taxation Without Representation"

Isn't that why we fought the Revolutionary War in the first place?

(So why are we still doing it to our nation's capitol?)

: )

by atdleft 2007-03-15 01:10PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

The DC Voting Rights bill will probably pass the House soon, but the Senate is still a big question mark.

To help jump start the campaign for voting rights a big march is planned for April 16, which also happens to be DC emancipation Day, when slaves were free in Washington, DC in 1863.  Marchers will gather at Freedom Plaza, 13th & Pennsylvania, NW at 2:30 PM.

by howardpark 2007-03-15 01:10PM | 0 recs
Voting rights march

Sign up for the march at www.votingrightsmarch.org.

by KCinDC 2007-03-15 02:12PM | 0 recs
People are working to change this

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has been fighting valiantly for a long time to bring about representation for DC. The arguments voiced in the hearing on Monday ranged from ignorance of why two seats were being created, esp the one in Utah, to someone almost demanding that DC become a state, so that it would meet the wording in the Constitution. I laughed then - DC would LOVE two senators. Well, that got taken care of with the stipulation that the statue did not envision statehood for DC. Despite the Republican arguments, the affirmative vote was emphatic.

The committee's clerk had a penchant for reading off the Nays first, so it was gently explained it is customary to report the Ayes first.

by Books Alive 2007-03-15 01:13PM | 0 recs

Another great site for those who have voting representation who actually care about taxation without representation in DC is:


by howardpark 2007-03-15 01:14PM | 0 recs
Re: http://www.FreeAndEqualDC.com

Set up by our new shadow representative Mike Panetta.

by KCinDC 2007-03-15 02:16PM | 0 recs
No taxation with Representation in Congress

Don't pay your federal taxes.

Simple as that.

Cite Sam Adams on your tax form

by dataguy 2007-03-15 01:33PM | 0 recs
I actually think DC should NOT have Senators

But having a house member is a lovely compromise.

You deserve the representation in the people's house

by dataguy 2007-03-15 01:34PM | 0 recs

   I think they should at least have the right to vote for senators, even if these senators do not exclusively represent DC.

by cilerder86 2007-03-15 01:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Senators.

At large Senators?  Or senators to represent DC and all the US territories?

by yitbos96bb 2007-03-15 02:01PM | 0 recs
Re: I actually think DC should NOT have Senators

Why not?  More people live in DC than in Wyoming.  Once you're giving them federal representation, there's no real reason to stop with the House -- it's not a sui generis case.

by jsw 2007-03-15 02:09PM | 0 recs

   Is this a dirty word?  Does it scare DC citizens and Marylanders?  Or is their support for retrocession?  It would allow for full representation.

by cilerder86 2007-03-15 01:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Retrocession.

Well, I live in the Virginia suburbs of DC but most DC and MD people I know are not in support of retrocession. Maryland doesn't want to absorb a large city and DC residents don't want to be a part of MD. DC is an unique place and it should stay independent from MD.

by FairfaxDem11 2007-03-15 01:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Retrocession.

Besides if it is going to join a state, I'd rather see it join Virginia than Maryland.  Be nice to add an assload of Dem votes to a Red State.

by yitbos96bb 2007-03-15 02:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Retrocession.

The land came from Maryland, so it wouldn't make sense (or be retrocession) to give it to Virginia. The land ceded by Virginia was all retroceded back in 1846 to form what's now Arlington and part of Alexandria.

And please, we refer to Virginia as purplish nowadays.

by KCinDC 2007-03-15 02:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Retrocession.

Virginia can always give Arlington & Alexandria back to DC.  Heck, if so we might even use the taxes from those places for transportation in Arlington & Alexandria, rather than Danville, Roanoke or Richmond.

by howardpark 2007-03-15 04:29PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

In addition to DC,  I think all parts of U.S. soil with populations should have representation in Congress.

American Samoa
Puerto Rico
U.S. Virgin Islands
American Samoa
Northern Mariana Islands
Midway Islands
Wake Island
Johnston Atoll
Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Islands
Kingman Reef
Navassa Island
Palmyra Atoll

by robliberal 2007-03-15 01:49PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

I agree that that issue needs addressing, but it's separate. For one thing, residents of those places  don't pay federal income taxes. We in DC do.

by KCinDC 2007-03-15 02:01PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

I think some or all income is taxed in U.S. territories now just like DC.

Individuals Living or Working in U.S. Possessions

American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico have their own independent tax departments. If you have income from one of these possessions, you may have to file a U.S. tax return only, a possession tax return only, or both returns. This generally depends on whether you are considered a resident of one of the possessions. In some cases, you may have to file a U.S. return, but be able to exclude income earned in a possession from U.S. tax. Filing requirements for specific U.S. possessions are explained in Publication 570.

http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/inte rnational/article/0,,id=97321,00.html

by robliberal 2007-03-15 02:43PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

Rob- they don't pay federal income taxes like we do in DC.  They do pay taxes in thier own jurisdiction, but not federal taxes.  Of course, in DC we pay (high) local taxes too.

As far as I'm concerned, stop taxing us (it would cost billions upon billions to Uncle Sam) and then I'll stop yelling about TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.  Oh yeah, stop taking our National Guard to Traq.  Yes, DC residens pay taxes and pay with blood too, but we can't vote in the House or Senate.  That is just wrong.

by howardpark 2007-03-15 04:22PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

I have always thought DC should have voting members of the House and Senate. I have never understood the legal arguments of how it is constitutional for an area not to be represented but have to fulfill all of the obligations of the states.

by robliberal 2007-03-15 06:42PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

As a former DC resident, I can tell you Howard is absolutely right about income tax.  Residents of other territories do not pay US income taxes but DC residents do.

The fed govt also screws DC by controlling almost 60% of the land in the city severly reducing its tax base and the payment it receives in lieu of taxes is a pittance.  It should be noted much of that most this land is in an extremely valuable part of town and would bring the city a ton of property tax revenue if it were privately held.  

I hope this bill becomes law - DC has been getting the shaft for far too long and deserves full representation in Congress.

by John Mills 2007-03-15 06:55PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

Howard, if DC became a federal tax haven, I don't think you and I would be able to afford to live here anymore. Rents, house prices, and local taxes would go through the roof as it became a city for the ultrarich.

by KCinDC 2007-03-15 07:17PM | 0 recs
I live in PR and...

We do pay income tax, but only to the island govt, not federal.

But we do pay federal taxes too.  For example, an excise tax on Rum.  Think of it as the Tea tax, with a tropical flavor.  It is as much "taxation without representation" as occurs in DC.  Actually moreso, if you consider that DC residents at least get to vote for President.

We also are not fully funded on govt programs as states are, for example: Medicaid, WIC, etc.

Oh, and we have 4 million residents, which is more than all those other territories and DC combined.

by The lurking ecologist 2007-03-15 08:54PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

I have a question too.

Is the constant and obvious "gotcha" posts against Barack Obama and the "Just like a Prayer" post geared towards Edwards having something to do with Edwards poll numbers ?

I mean, we are dealing with a smart and suspicious electorate don'c cha know.


by ObamaEdwards2008 2007-03-15 01:58PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

Ooops, wrong thread. Nevermind.

As you were.


by ObamaEdwards2008 2007-03-15 02:01PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

Does this proposal include representation in the Senate?

It doesn't appear that the move to limit the House to 435 members required a constitutional amendment, so why should this?

Everyone in America deserves voting representation in the House and Senate, whether they live in DC, Puerto Rico, or any American territory.

by jallen 2007-03-15 02:02PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

Anyone heard anymore on making Puerto Rico a state?

by yitbos96bb 2007-03-15 02:05PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

I've only heard that Puerto Rico doesn't want statehood. However, my GoodSearch turns up pro-statehood sites first. This one reflects current legislation, so statehood efforts are viable.

The National Center site opens with an error, stating boldly that the House is limited to 435, then goes on to say that 90% of Puerto Ricans speak only Spanish, so they would make Spanish the official language, a costly decision.

by Books Alive 2007-03-15 03:16PM | 0 recs
PR Statehood

Approximately 47% of Puerto Ricans voted for statehood when presented the option in the late 1990s.  About 48% voted for "none of the above" which was the current, colonial status.  The remaining 5-ish% voted for independence.

There has never been a plebiscite here where the results were binding.  They have always been essentially expensive opinion polls.  For the poll to count, Congress must state it will accept and put into action the winning result.

90% of the Puerto Ricans DO NOT ONLY speak Spanish.  As a poor Spanish speaker and a native English speaker, I have lots of experience finding out which PR'ans speak English, and it is far far more than 10%--I'd guess 70%, with various fluency.

by The lurking ecologist 2007-03-15 08:48PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

No, this has nothing to do with Senate representation.

The expansion of the House from 435 to 437 definitely doesn't require a constitutional amendment. The constitutional question is whether Congress can allow a representative from DC, which counts as a state for some purposes but not others.

by KCinDC 2007-03-15 02:11PM | 0 recs
Electoral College

I posted this elsewhere...but there is another issue: (In addition to DC getting a rep, Utah gets another one)

   Thus, every state has at least 3 electoral votes, because the Constitution grants each State two Senators and at least one Representative. In addition to the 535 electoral votes divided among the States, the District of Columbia has three electoral votes because the 23rd Amendment granted it the same number of votes as the least populated State.

So DC would still have 3 electoral votes...

   One of the primary functions of the Census is to reapportion the 435 members of the House of Representatives among the States, based on the current population. The reapportionment of the House determines the division of electoral votes among the States. In the Electoral College, each State gets one electoral vote for each of its Representatives in the House, and one electoral vote for each of its two Senators.

So Utah gets another electoral college vote?  No wonder the Republicans voted for it...they get another electoral vote!! (assuming Utah goes red)

by ChgoBrad 2007-03-15 02:47PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

I really don't see why DC shouldn't have full statehood.  This sort of in-between system we have now is, if not racist, then nakedly partisan.

by LPMandrake 2007-03-15 02:49PM | 0 recs
Judiciary Committee votes out bill, 21-13

Passed after four hours of debate, and after defusing a threat of 43 amendments that would have set up other congressional districts, the vote is reported in this Washington Post article that was listed on C-Span's Capital News. The bill should go to the full House late next week. Two Republicans were named as supporters, Reps Mike Pence and Chris Cannon.

by Books Alive 2007-03-15 03:28PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

First, I think the Constitution is clear that only States get representation in Congress.

I also resent the hell out of Utah getting more representatives per person than New Jersey has.  If their ratio goes down, then so should ours.

Make DC a state, or pass a constitutional amendment.  Otherwise -- and I hate to say this - it's a non starter.

Because I agree with the REASONS for wanting that representation.  But the repercussions are far worse.

by nathan 2007-03-15 03:42PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

A state has to have an integral number of representatives, and it has to have at least one. Thus the ratios vary by a bit. Utah has to either have fewer representatives per person than New Jersey (as it does now) or more (as it would if this bill became law). Utah can't have 3.5 reps.

by KCinDC 2007-03-15 07:13PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

Come now, you're a big shot in Washington with direct access, they KNOW YOUR NAME. I think you have a bit more influence than me in the grand scheme of things.

But I'll support it anyway. Everyone's voice needs a floor that's equal. Give DC the vote!

by MNPundit 2007-03-15 10:12PM | 0 recs
Re: I Don't Have Representation in Congress

No, you don't have a rep and you're not likely to, given the Republican fear that DC might send Democrats to Congress. Doesn't make it right, but it didn't when I moved there 35 years ago. The best chance of DC residents getting a significant vote is to do something to kick Republicans out elsewhere. Which you are.

But there may be something worse. Having Joe Lieberman as an alleged representative of your state in the Senate and then Shays is not very representative either, as he tries to assuage everyone but still following th eparty line on far too much.

People who voted for Lieberman (not me for sure) are angry that this man took their plurality as a mandate to act in a manner that is contrary to the feelings of the state's electorate. We didn't want the war. He lied. Now, he's flopped back to being Bush's boy.

by CTER 2007-03-15 11:44PM | 0 recs
Take Action for DC Voting Rights

I was at all the hearings this week. With any new approach there will Constitutional questions, and scholars on both sides made their cases regarding the bill. The bottom line, it's the kind of things the Courts decide - not Congress. The American Bar Association has indicated the bill is Constitutional, and they don't do that sort of thing lightly. Congress should pass this bill and give voting rights to over 600,000 people in the District of Columbia.

What can you do to make this happen? Go to http://www.freeandequaldc.com and send a message to your members of Congress in support of this bill.

We are looking for a full House vote next week, so please take action today!

Mike Panetta
U.S. "Shadow" Representative (D-DC)

by PanettaMike 2007-03-16 06:57AM | 0 recs


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