News Release

Democracy for D.C.?


AP is reporting: “A plan to give Utah a fourth congressional seat and the District of Columbia its first voting member of Congress advanced Tuesday, making a floor vote in the House a possibility in the next few weeks.” The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the legislation Thursday.

Jenkins and Wiseman are with the Stand Up! for Democracy in D.C. Coalition (Free D.C). Jenkins said today: “The bill is named the ‘District of Columbia Fairness in Representation Act,’ but does not do enough to correct the lack of basic democratic rights in the nation’s capital. A ‘fairness’ bill would guarantee that D.C. would have both House and Senate votes.

“This bill gives D.C. one vote in the U.S. House of Representatives only if Utah gets an additional vote in the House. The Utah representative is almost certain to be a conservative who would cancel out the D.C. representative who is almost certain to be a liberal.”

Wiseman said today: “This bill only addresses voting rights — actually voting right, since it’s just one vote we’d be getting. But voting is just the tip of the iceberg for democratic rights; we need self-determination, we need statehood. We pay federal taxes and die in wars, but we in D.C. cannot determine our own budget — Congress does. We don’t have a district attorney. We don’t vote for anybody who prosecutes cases for us, or against us. When people from D.C. are sentenced to jail, they typically serve their time in California or North Carolina, further damaging families. However, I suspect that D.C. will get statehood some day — once it has been sufficiently gentrified.”
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McLarty recently wrote an article, published in Roll Call, titled “Democracy for D.C.: Allow Statehood, Not ‘Voting Rights.'” He said today: “The proposed law is likely to be found unconstitutional because the U.S. Constitution provides for voting representation in Congress solely for states; the courts ruled on this most recently in 2000.

“While other Americans enjoy three voting seats (two U.S. Senators and one Representative), D.C. residents would get a single voting seat, making them ‘1/3 citizens.’ (D.C. has a larger population than Wyoming, which of course has a Representative and two Senators.) This legislation also gives largely Republican Utah a new seat, and since the number of electors is tied to the number of U.S. Representatives, Republicans would likely gain a new Electoral College vote under this legislation. Furthermore, the bill contains a nonseverability clause, but a temporary injunction in the event of a lawsuit may allow Utah its new voting seat while D.C.’s vote would be blocked until a ruling is issued.

“Proponents of the bill claim that it provides democracy for D.C., but a vote in one chamber of the national legislature is not the same as self-government. The crisis in D.C. is that we don’t have control over our own laws. Right now, [D.C. Mayor] Adrian Fenty is inviting Congress to impose a charter amendment on D.C. that strips the D.C. School Board of its powers. In the last ten years, Congress nullified a popular initiative for medical marijuana, imposed a charter school program and prohibited a commuter tax. All this remains in place under the proposed legislation.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167