Again with the DC Voting Rights


I can't believe I'm writing about the DC Vote legislation again. This is, like, my fifth time wasting time on this? Ugh. Sorry, guys. Yet whenever the issue comes up, you have the Post editorial staff, Marc Fisher, and Martin Austermuhle rallying the troops in support of this bill. I can't let that stand.

For new readers, here's the quick and dirty basics. The legislation, which has passed the House, would give DC a vote in the House of Representatives. It would also give Utah an extra at-large House member to offset the very liberal leanings of the District. This legislation appears to have the support of most everyone in Washington and Utah.

There is some question to the constitutionality of the legislation. Some believe that Congress does not have the ability to grant the District a vote. Naturally, others think this part of the legislation is all kosher. I lean towards the former, but, hey, I'm no legal scholar. I could be wrong.

However, I'm pretty sure that giving Utah an extra at-large House member is wildly, stupidly unconstitutional. It violates everything that is good about representative democracy by giving citizens of one state two voices in the House. This would make Utah more politically potent than any state in the country. That should strike all of you, whether you're from Virginia, Maryland, DC, or Massachusetts (Hi Mom!) as incredibly dangerous.

Of course, Utah's extra vote isn't as important to me as the civil rights of my fellow District residents. Hey, I'm selfish like that. Everyone can agree that our total lack of representation on the Hill is an embarrassment to the very concept of democracy. We pay taxes, fight wars, and we get absolutely no say in how to manage either. This legislation will make things worse.

If you truly believe this is an issue of civil rights (and if you don't, you're a moron), then this legislation is a bitter pill to swallow. Civil rights isn't something you can just cancel out. When women were given the right to vote in 1920, men weren't given two votes to cancel the women out. That would be preposterous. But that is exactly what's happening here. What's the point of representative democracy if your representation can be cancelled out with extra legislators?

Marc Fisher described this Utah vote, the political neutrality, as the "beauty" of the bill. Shame on him. What exactly is the point of having a House vote if it doesn't matter? Since when do our rights as human beings have anything to do with politically neutral? The 1865 black community voted overwhelmingly Republican. Yet Congress didn't pass any legislation giving Democratic states extra representation because it was politically neutral. This is civil rights! What does politics have to do with it!?

Even if the Utah part of the bill is scrapped, the legislation still leaves District residents fundamentally and unacceptably underrepresented. Our hypothetical one voice in the House doesn't come close to matching up the three representatives (one House member, two Senators) that every other American citizen has.

Why must we accept this compromise? In issues of civil rights, there can be no room for compromise. We can't have it both ways when our rights are being trampled. Civil rights compromises are doomed to fail. As long as we are on unequal ground with our fellow Americans, we can not rest. And this legislation is a slap in the face to anyone who truly cares about District residents. We only get a voice if someone else gets the ability to shout you down? We only get one voice, neutered by Utah, in one chamber of Congress? How can this possibly be acceptable?

Hear that Marc Fisher and Martin Austermuhle? Are you for our civil rights or are you for a useless compromise that does nothing but let people pat themselves on the back? Your positions on this matter have been totally unacceptable. I greatly admire your writing on other issues, but your wrongheadedness in such an important matter to DC residents is, frankly, embarrassing. No compromise could be made on slavery. No compromise could be made on segregation. And no compromise can be made here. (And, yes, this is a racial matter. If this city were over 60% white instead of over 60% black, there is no way we're having this conversation.) I hope you do the right thing and come out against this legislation. We need to start from scratch and fight for what we, and every American, deserve: democratic representation and equality. This bill grants us neither.

UPDATE: It looks like the bill failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to open up debate. The bill is dead, for now. It'll probably come back in the next few years. Hopefully, before we have to go through this madness again, we can move pas this farce of a civil rights bill and actually work to get the District's 600,000 residents the Representative and Senators they deserve with no strings attached.


  1. If voting rights is what the citizens of the District want, then the right thing to do is petition for Statehood and go through that legal process, retrocede the District back to Maryland as a new congressional district, OR amend the Constitution to grant Congress the power to give the District a vote. It is *not* a power the Congress currently has. That's the way the vote was granted to African-Americans and women, as you mentioned. It's also the way the poll tax was prohibited and the mechanism by which the voting age was lowered to 18. It *is* the only way to go.

  2. Feh. If I was yearning for more politicians to "represent" me, I'd move to a state.

    Just exempt me from federal taxes, thanks.

  3. Retrocession is really the best option.... except that MD in no way wants DC. DC in the long run would probably benefit, fitting into the larger support systems that larger political organizations such as states provide. And of course the DC Statehood nuts consider it to be a unacceptable option... irregardless that every Right leaning state would in no way allow DC to attain statehood and deploy 2 unassaultable Democrat Senators.

  4. dcrebel: The Constitutional amendment option failed miserably last time around. Miserably. It got to the states, and they told us to go Cheney ourselves.

    james: why the fuck should I have to move out of the city where I was born just to get a representative? (Of course, exempting me from federal taxes would go be a nice spoonful of sugar to help down the bitter pill of disenfranchisement. Although if you think you've seen gentrification these past few years, you ain't seen shit compared to what would happen without a federal income tax here.

    daniel: I'd go with retro-retro-cession. We'll just take back Arlington and the part of Alexandria inside the original District limits. No amendment needed, since the Constitution provides for the original 10-mile by 10-mile boundaries. The rest of Virginia would bid good riddance to it's liberal neighbors, who would increase the District's population to nearly 1 million, which would strengthen its case for a constitutional amendment granting representation in both the house and the senate. And the good people of Alexandria would finally get their smoking ban...

  5. edthered - On behalf of Arlington.... no thanks...
    trading in a really effective government for the CF that is DC politics.... even if we do have a bit of tension with Richmond I would take that any day of the week over having to deal with the DC government.

  6. Of course, from today's article in the Post, there's not a single mention of the bill being unconstitutional because it gives fucking Utah an extra seat. Can't piss off Utah, or their congressional delegation might not vote for your precious little pork projects, huh, Senator Byrd? Fuck all those grandstanding bitches.

  7. daniel: see, therein lies the rub. Maryland doesn't want us back, Arlington and Alexandria don't want to rejoin us, and the majority of the American people either don't know that we can't vote, don't care that we can't vote, or are extremely pleased that we can't vote. Well, fucking shame on all of you.

    Living in a colony sucks (and yes, I was born in the District, so spare me the "why did you move there?" bullshit).

  8. didn't john warner say he would draft a constitutional amendment making DC the equivalent of a state? that seems like it would be the best solution anyway.

  9. coffee: yeah, it's such a great idea that the last time one got sent to the states, it got passed by a whomping 16 of them before it lapsed into oblivion:


    Want to guess how many southern states passed it? Huh? Do ya? I was off by one when I guessed, because Louisiana actually did pass it.

  10. Coffee, if you're waiting on Warner to do anything progressive or citizen focused other than flap his gums, you'll be waiting until he retires.

    The man will talk talk talk but at the end of the day will always vote with Bush and for less rights for regular people.

  11. what's your point edthered? 16 states out of the 38 necessary for ratification is a much higher percentage than what you'd get from arlington/alexandria voters favoring retrocession back into DC. and mal, i think warner will actually do the right thing here since he'll be retiring in the near future anyway.

  12. coffee: see that's the beauty of retro-retrocession...the 10 mile x 10 mile boundaries for DC are already in the Constitution. Virginia got their part back by act of Congress, and Congress could take it back, just like that, lickety split, and there wouldn't be a damn thing anyone could do about it.

    Of course, since Virginians actually *have* representation, Congress never actually *would* even dream of doing such a thing.

    My point, however, is this: until Democrats control the legislatures in at least 35 states, no amendment will ever pass. Ever. Because DC is, as Ted Kennedy once said, too urban, too liberal, and too black. And that is to this nation's deep and lasting shame.

    Although I suppose if we disenfranchised, 530,000 folks in and around, say, Sugarland, Texas, I'd feel better about things.

  13. edthered: i agree with you that the constitutional option has failed in the past, but it's the ONLY viable option. You can't just IGNORE the process laid forth in the constitution because only 16 of 38 States ratified it. Just because it's harrrrd to do, doesn't mean you can just throw your arms up in the air and say, oh well, we tried... now let's do it this way instead. It's hard to change the constitution because the framer's wanted it to be hard. Instead of crying about "Taxation without Representation" the citizens of the District should organize a good NATIONAL campaign to raise awareness and educate people about the issue. Maybe it should be a campaign issue in 2008? If instead, you're going to fight the constitutional process... you don't stand a chance ever.

  14. "Retro-retro-cession" of Virginia is not going to happen. Ever. And there's no legal framework for it. Congress can *NOT* wave it's magic wand and take back Virginia. For one... the Constitution sets the MAXIMUM not minimum size of the District at 100 square miles.

    The citizens of Alexandria, who between 1801 and 1846 wanted retrocession, did not ever argue for DC Statehood. They wanted to return to their homestate. I would argue that today, if the citizens of the District want to return to THEIR homestate of Maryland, they should follow the same legal route of 1846 and little resistance would probably be met. Afterall, the precedent clearly already exists.

  15. Make D.C. a French Protectorate. You and yours, Rusty, would be at home in such "environs." You could then wear a berat and blog with a nasty, uppity Parisian attitude. Oui, Oui, Rusty is pissed again!

  16. dcrebel: see, the problem with DC getting an amendment passed is this: we have no representation, and we're overwhelmingly supportive of a single political party. There's no way to arrange any tit-for-tat, which is how these things generally work. The DC Vote folks have been trying for years to raise awareness on a national level, but with pretty much zero success.

    You see, it's all very well to say "Stop crying and get an amendment," but when you don't even have your own representatives to vote for the amendment on the floor, it makes things kind of impossible. I actually can't believe an amendment made it to the states once already.

    Basically, there's zero incentive for the rest of the country to change the status quo, and there's pretty much zero chance of them doing it.

    Retrocession to Maryland would require Maryland's consent, and neither the Baltimore Machine nor the state's rural areas want anything to do with DC (whereas in 1846, Virginia most certainly wanted Alexandria back).

    We're pretty much fucked. Our only chance is to hope that the rest of the country is eventually shamed into doing something, but I doubt that will ever happen.

    And retro-retro-cession would never actually happen...but since a main argument against giving DC reps is it's population, it certainly wouldn't hurt to add 300,000 people.

  17. Coffee, how has your boy John Warner done the last couple of days? Voted against cloture on habeas corpus and voted against cloture on fellow VA Senator Webb's bill to rotate the troops home for periods at least as long as their deployments. All this after running to the TV cameras to announce how much his position has moderated lately.

    Warner is dishonest and fake moderate, and cannot retire fast enough.

  18. Friday New York Times:

    "Mr. Reid, in his comments to reporters, criticized Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, for withdrawing his support for the Webb proposal. Mr. Warner, a respected voice on military affairs, had voted for the proposal in July but changed his position in response to heavy lobbying by the Pentagon.

    Mr. Reid said Democrats had gone to great lengths to win Republican votes for the Webb plan, and in a pointed dig he said: “I even called Larry Craig, trying to get some votes. We only needed three, and we worked hard to get those.” "

  19. You're misreading the Utah portion -- The bill increases the House to 437 reps and gives one to DC. The second rep goes to whoever is next in line for it. Based on the 2000 census that is Utah.

    The number of representatives is set by law, not the constitution and it can be changed by enacting a new law.
    Giving us DC residents a vote is probably going to take a constitutional amendment. But I'm all for no federal income taxes for those born here!

  20. Christopher, I understand why Utah gets the extra rep. Utah getting another rep is inevitable. However, the rep can't/shouldn't be an at-large member. An at-large member gives Utahns two representatives and that can not stand.

  21. Hey, I'm from Utah and I think that giving us this 4th seat IS unconstitutional.

    Because it is.