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The answer is easy: continue to allow the media and Congress alike to ignore the lack of voting representation of the citizens of Washington, DC.

Amid the much-touted burgeoning democracy in Iraq, the controversial elections in New Orleans, and the excitement of this year's increasingly promising Congressional elections, a centuries-old issue has managed to be kept on the back burner and under wraps, rendering voiceless more than half a million American citizens living in the capital of the greatest democracy in the world.

Matters of constitutional rights that hinder our democratic process impact every national policy decision, from the war in Iraq to immigration reform, from healthcare to education, and from network neutrality to environmental protection. Because of their universal effect on the decisions made through our democratic process, such matters should certainly leave us trying to bring them to the forefront of national media and congressional debate; but the pointed and racially-motivated reasoning behind this particular matter should leave us nothing less than astounded and disgusted.

One of the frequent arguments against full voting representation for the District is the inevitability of congressional elections in DC resulting in a "partisan hand-out" to the Democrats.  To say nothing of the fact that political affiliation should in no way be used to disenfranchise any American, this ostensible motive, historically and currently, has its roots in the racial complexion (around 60% black) of Washington, DC's over half a million residents.  Not only would this concession to DC residents mean up to three more Democratic legislators on the Hill, but these legislators would almost undoubtedly be both black and considerably left-of-center, something a Senate that, in its entire history, has had only five black members (two of which date back to Reconstruction), is not willing to allow, even if it means the continued denial of basic democratic rights to hundreds of thousands of American citizens in its own backyard.

As recently as 2005, polls show that only 18% of Americans and only 1 in 10 of our nation's next generation of voters and leaders (aged 18-34) know of the District's lack of congressional voting rights.  Since 1999, awareness among college graduates, the study's most informed group, has dropped from 45% to a 36%.  Even among those who know the plight of District residents, fallacies about the contributions of Washingtonians on a national level have clouded the debate.  Almost one in every four Americans' decisions on the issue is formed based on the misconception that DC residents pay no federal income taxes, which many view as a prerequisite for voting rights, and almost four in ten Americans falsely believe that DC citizens pay no state or local income taxes.  Neither of these absurd notions could be farther from the truth.  In fact, District residents pay higher per capita taxes than residents of 49 of the 50 states.  Beyond taxation, District citizens contribute to the federal government as much as any other state: they have sent troops to fight and die in every war in U.S. history (even though they had no say in the foreign policy behind these wars), they facilitate American justice by serving on juries, they have a population larger than that of Wyoming, and similar to those of six other states, and their gross state economic output ranks higher than those of 14 other states.

Despite low visibility and an ingrained sense of status quo, in the past decade in particular voices have been raised in order to boost awareness and inspire action and legislation.  Polls show that, when informed of District residents' disenfranchisement, 82% of Americans support equal voting rights for District residents.  Yet, since 1961's ratification of the 23rd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted DC residents the right to vote in presidential elections, District residents have seen no significant increase in federal representation.  (So-called "shadow representatives," one in the House and two in the Senate, as well as one delegate to the House, have been instated and allowed to debate, and, in the case of the delegate, vote in committee but not on the floor; but, these nominal positions do not provide DC residents with anything close to full voting rights.)   Since its introduction to the House on May 3, 2005, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA)'s H.R. 2043, "DC Fairness in Representation Act" ("DC FAIR Act"), appears to be following the seemingly inevitable path of all the previous attempts to legislatively or judicially challenge the institutionalized disenfranchisement of DC residents, due to inaction and a lack of constituent awareness and pressure.  This act, which would give the District its first (and singular) voting representative in the House (as well as granting Utah an additional seat, to counter concerns of partisanship), is viewed as a compromise to the stronger, but less achievable, "No Taxation Without Representation Act of 2005" (S. 195 and H.R. 398), introduced earlier that year by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I know, it pisses me off, too, when he's the good guy) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), which would treat DC as any other state in terms of full voting representation.  More ideal solutions such as actual statehood or even retrocession to Maryland have consistently been shut down in both the House and the Senate.

As our troops are off dying for the democratization of Iraq (as part of a war permitted by a legislature with no voice for the District), as federal incompetence on a criminal scale has effectively disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of predominantly black and low-income voters during a crucial period of physical and infrastructural reconstruction in another one of America's great cities, and as we march ever closer to the possibility of a serious Democratic comeback in the upcoming congressional elections, I urge you, reader, to take a moment to inform yourself on the disgraceful situation in our nation's capital, and realize that disregard and inaction on this issue undermine the very fabric of our democracy.

Though it is far from the ultimate goal of gaining full voting rights in Washington, DC, the "DC FAIR Act" is an important and attainable first battle in this two-hundred-year-old fight to give a voice to hundreds of thousands of silenced citizens all living in neighborhoods within 15 miles of the very Congress to which their disenfranchisement is due.  The juxtaposition of the physical proximity of these voiceless citizens to the seat of federal legislative power and the distance from which those citizens must long for the right to participate in it ought to rouse those citizens lucky enough to be represented in Congress to action and compel those representatives to legislate serious voting rights reform for the residents of Washington, DC.

Arm yourself with information on the issue by visiting the website of one of the three leading DC voting rights advocacy groups, DC Vote, FairVote and The DC Statehood Party, and urge your representatives to prevent the DC FAIR Act from meeting the fate of previous attempts to end the disenfranchisement by supporting the first real step toward bringing democracy to our nation's capital.

Originally posted to amerikanYippie on Tue May 02, 2006 at 04:33 AM PDT.


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Comment Preferences

  •  what's fair should be fair for all: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    two senators and a representative are necessary.

    "welcome to the monkey house" vonnegut

    by realheathen on Tue May 02, 2006 at 04:39:17 AM PDT

  •  Norton is the problem (0+ / 0-)

    She came to a meeting of the DCDSC and argued with a member who lived in Utah.  He said the Davis bill would be a wash and she got visibly upset and was nearly screaming at Rudi, trembling as she spoke, that he didn't know what he was talking about.  A few months later, I get an e-mail about how she's been a supporter and pusher of this bill since it was written.

    She's part of the problem.  I want her gone.  I'd rather replace her with Fenty, Kinlow, Gray and yeah, evern (dare I say it) Catania.

    I want a budget.  I want to make decisions on marriages and taxi cabs.

    •  Agreed. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bendygirl, kosnobugme

      I've never thought that Norton has done a good job mustering support for DC voting rights.  Someone a bit more outspoken, like Fenty (though I'd be happy to have him as mayor, instead), or even DC Statehood Green Party leader Adam Eidinger (we can safely give up a Democratic position in DC to a Statehood Green Party candidate) would be a much better bet for the cause.

      And yes, budget and legislative autonomy are key issues that I think will become more attainable and visible when we finally get a real voice on the Hill.

      •  yep (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        And if w're talking cleaning house, can we get rid of Paul Strauss, too?  He's pretty worthless and I've been incredibly dissatisfied with he and Florence when I've heard them in Ward 8.  What exactly have they done for the cause?  In fact, what exactly have they done at all?

        I heard a rumor that Strauss wants to run for Ward 3.  i'm pulling for Brooks.  He's much more with it and a much better candidate.

        Oh, and I'd love a Fenty mayorship.  He's great, but I"ve also heard he's been flat in some of the debates.  I also like Johns, but she's too dark horse like.  And no, I'm not interested at all in Orange or Cropp.  And Brown, his campaign's been a joke.

        •  Indeed. (0+ / 0-)

          DC has always held such potential in my eyes for serious progressive, or even radical, political reform.  With a more concentrated population than any other "state," and a minority-majority, shouldn't we be able to come up with some amazing reforms championed by some bright, young candidates?  It's not like the number of voting constituents is so large that one inexpensive (due to population density) pointed campaign for reform on any issue shouldn't be able to change the way politics are done in the city...

          •  agreed (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            So, when you running?  As I work toward getign a friend of mine to come out for the Rep spot Ray Browne is stepping down from, I wonder when DC politicos will start to recognize the value in these spots.  A targetted grassroots push would do so much more than what we're doing now.

            •  Well... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              first of all, I'm 18, so I'm going to have to wait a few least until I finish college.

              Second of all, I'm white, so, my support is already lookin' pretty slim in DC.  Though I suppose a white guy could win one of the shadow seats, since nobody really knows/cares what those are...

              •  well (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                two white guys already are in them, Paul Strauss and Ray Browne.

                And if you in Wards 1, 3 or 2 (and even 6) you have a pretty good chance at a council seat.  You should consider running.  And, if you do, absolutely take the Camp Wellstone training.  And, if you're planning to stay in the district for college (I can't recall if you mentioned where you're going to school) then you can help us out on the DC Democratic State Committee, unless, of course, you're a Green.  You'd at least have to be a Democrat.

  •  Address this in a wider context (6+ / 0-)

    I got to run to work, but thought I'd post first...  Anyway, fair issue, though my vote goes to retroceding all of the residential areas of D.C. back to Maryland (which will probably require a gigantic "Ransom of Red Chief" to accept, but that's another story).

    But I'd like to see this considered in a wider context:  3,500,000 Puerto Ricans with no voting representatiion either. About 50% want statehood, and in the 1990s Jesse Helms and his Senate Repug friends refused to even to set the terms for accession to statehood.  Also about 50,000 disenfranchised citizens on the Virgin Islands, 250,000 on Guam, another 100,000 or so on Saipan and Tinian in the Northern Marianas.  Not to mention American Samoans, who aren't even "citizens" but are only American "nationals."

    There's the fundamental fairness issue.  There's also the issue of 2 Senators and 1 representative for some awfully tiny populations/areas.

  •  First try at blogging, and you broke the website? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In the diary list I see, all titles after yours are in italics.  The most likely cause is whatever you did to put part of your title in italics.  But of course you shouldn't be able to affect other titles!  There must be some way to bring this to the attention of the webmaster, no?

    •  AH! (0+ / 0-)

      AH! It's probably because the end italics html tag wouldn't fit in the subject line.  i was messing around with it before...i can't put that in the intro, because it's just at its limit, too!  what do i doooo?!

      maybe the blogosphere just isn't for me...

      •  Not your problem (0+ / 0-)

        As I said:  If the site were correctly designed, nothing you do should be able to affect the titles of other diaries.  I wouldn't touch anything; just write a note to the webmaster (I'm still not sure who it is) and point this out.  His (or her) problem.  And whoever it is owes you one for finding this bug.

        I now notice that it's not just subsequent diary titles; it's everything in the column, including endorsed candidates and the blogroll.

      •  italics (0+ / 0-)
        you could try removing the italics tags entirely.

        it's nice to have the italics, but it's not necessary.

        •  I mean, I could... (0+ / 0-)

          but the power to change even the slightest detail on on of the most trafficked sites on the internet is kind of tempting...

          That, and I barely even know how I got the italics there in the first place...deleting them is a whole other issue...

          I'll look into it, though.

  •  Had to take out your italic (0+ / 0-)

    No room to close it in your title.

    It was affecting the rest of the site.

    "All knew that Armando was an Armory of Wisdom. But then, who are these with whom Armando crossed verbal swords?"

    by Armando on Tue May 02, 2006 at 07:35:03 AM PDT

  •  DC tags (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TrueBlueMajority, Sonicreducr

    One of the final things Bill Clinton did while in office was order up a set of the DC license plates (in DC they're just called 'tags') sporting the 'no taxation without representation' line for the presidential limo.

    Someone should double check my memory on the timing of this, but I believe one of the very first things Bush did after being sworn in was have the 'no taxation' tags removed from the presidential limo.

    In other words, pretty much first thing he did upon offical arrival was tell his new home to go fuck itself. DC was gonna get no love outta him anytime soon.

    A good metaphor for the way both he and his party have treated DC.

    •  and then (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      stormcoming, Sonicreducr

      we paid for the inauguration security.  It's a big F-u everytime we turn around.

    •  I have no reliable source... (0+ / 0-)

      but that's the same story I heard about the presidential limo.

      Thinking about it a bit more, though, would the presidential limo really have DC plates, as opposed to Secret Service or US Gov't plates?

      True or not, this anecdote really does perfectly capture the respective presidents' opinions of their neighborhing second-class citizenry.

    •  fine, I'll do my homework... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tmo, TrueBlueMajority, rjo, amerikanYippie

      Well, I gave my personal recollection without sources, so here, I'll come back in, many hours later, and fill this out a bit.

      Clinton was certainly no big DC supporter either, but the limo plates were a particular way to force the issue and get Bush on record as not being supportive of his future home's autonomy and representation in the federal gov.

      Keep in mind, the DC budget is completely entangled through the federal governement, so a signal like this was not a mere nose thumbing, but a sign of what the city could expect.

      Here's a NYT piece about the limo tags-

      Reversing an order of his predecessor, President-elect George W. Bush said today that he would remove District of Columbia license plates with the slogan ''Taxation Without Representation'' from the presidential limousines.

      President Clinton directed the Secret Service last month to install the new license plates to show his support for full voting rights for Washington's lone delegate to Congress.

      Mr. Bush said in an interview with The Associated Press today that he was having the plates removed and replaced with special 2001 inaugural tags issued by the city.

      When it is time to replace those, Mr. Bush said, he would opt for plain license plates. He said he was not interested in using license plates to make ''a political statement.''

      Washington issued the plates with the ''taxation'' slogan in blue letters on a white background in November as an option for those with cars registered in the city.

      Note the date, January 19, 2001- the day BEFORE his inauguration. That's what I call getting off on the "Right"(wing) foot.

      And here out of google's cache of American University's 'Eagle' is the more important piece-

      Bush told The Associated Press last week that the tags will be replaced with special 2001 inaugural tags issued by the city, citing no interest in using license plates to make a political statement.

      While no official announcement has been released by Mayor Anthony Williams, spokeswoman Peggy Armstrong said Williams was "disappointed but not surprised" by the decision.

      "As a D.C. resident, it was a total slap in the face," D.C. Vote activist Brian Johnson said at Saturday's inaugural protests. "He's going to live here for four years and he really should support the cause."

      Johnson views Bush's decision as a beacon of the new administration's future stance on the issue. "If he's going to take the taxation plates off the limo, that's just a clue that he won't support Eleanor Holmes Norton," he said.

      Note that in both these Bush claims his objection is that tags shouldn't be used to make a political statement.

      Perhaps in his spare time he'd care to take that up with his brother, Jeb, who signed the first 'Choose Life' plates bill in FL back in 1999. The plates in question utilize state collected monies to fund anti-abortion ministries 'fake clinics'.

  •  This is your first try at blogging? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kosnobugme, amerikanYippie

    Wow!  You certainly gave me an education!  Sounds like it's time for a march on Washington for this issue.  Hey, you won't have that far to go!

    I sure hope it's not your last blog.  Excellent job!  Commend and recommend!

  •  The DCOC and their Olympic Curling team (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    District of Columbia Olympic Committee

    Their method is a bit tongue in cheek but they are doing it to spread the message. 600,000 Americans have NO voice in Congress

    The wheels started turning in my head. I knew that Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, while part of the United States, each only have one, non-voting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives. The District of Columbia also only has one, non-voting delegate in the U.S. House. However, unlike those other American territories DC lacks its own Olympic committee.

    Bush's father should have withdrawn earlier

    by se portland on Tue May 02, 2006 at 11:52:35 AM PDT

  •  DC (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, redcardphreek

    In an earlier case, parts of DC (Arlington County VA and part of Alexandria) were handed back to Virginia.  It seems only fair to have the remaining portion of DC retrocede to Maryland.

  •  Utah? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As a resident of Utah, I much prefer to NOT have additional representation from this state. Look what we've got now.

    •  You're tellin' me... (0+ / 0-)

      but, to be fair, your 2000 Census numbers were only like a dozen or two short of meriting another representative.  There is one scary part about this part of the bill, though, which is that, unless properly amended to make the new representative an at-large position, the addition could very well allow Utah state legislators to redistrict, which would bring about devastating effects on the state's already tiny Democratic presence.

  •  Not to quibble (0+ / 0-)

    But I don't see how the disenfranchisement of DC's African-Americans is any worse or better than the disenfranchisement of it's Whites, Latinos, Asians, and everyone else.  

    But yeah, right on.  I think we need to fully de-colonize: statehood for DC, and the option of full statehood or full independence (no half-measures) for Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands, and Mariana Islands.  The constitution only requires a minimum of 60,000 people for statehood so there's no legal reason why these admittedly small territories can't be admitted as states.  Of course, all but Guam (it has a big military presence) would be reliable Democratic bastions... :-)

    •  Statehood (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm in no way suggesting that the disenfranchisement of blacks is worse than the disenfranchisement of any other American, but I do believe that institutionalized voter disenfranchisement with roots in racism is a more shocking and upsetting phenomenon than simple disenfranchisement.

      I agree with you on the "no half-measures" front.  Our ultimate goal in DC, as well it should be in all other U.S. territories, is full statehood.

      •  Agreed! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and thanx for an excellent diary.  Terrific research and analysis of the relevant issues.  This constitutes an absolutely gross injustice that I find sickening.  Yes, it is a special issue, and twice as wrong, because the majority of DC residents is Black.  I don't give a s**t who doesn't want to hear it, this needs to be fixed!!!

  •  Combine SD and ND then DC = 50 (0+ / 0-)

    When I talk about DC statehood, people say "but that will make 51 states"

    I don't see what the big deal is about 51 states. Regardless, this seems to be an issue so my new plan is to combine SD and ND into one state and call it Dakota and then DC can be the 50th.  We don't even have to change the flag.

    There's no reason SD and ND should have 4 senators  considering like64 people there.

    Also instead of "Taxation Without Representation" how about  "DC Statehood Now" on our tags

  •  Speaking of disenfranchising... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Have you seen this???

    In his new book, "Conned: How Millions of Americans Went to Prison, Lost the Vote, and Helped Send George W. Bush to the White House," award-winning journalist Sasha Abramsky takes us on a journey across the nation, documenting through personal interviews of people in prison, former prisoners, state legislators and advocates how felon disfranchisement laws fundamentally undermine America's democratic ideals.

    Today, nearly 5 million Americans are disfranchised from the right to vote either because they are in prison, on parole or probation, or because they live in a state that extends disfranchisement beyond the end of one's sentence. Racial, ethnic and economic disparities in the criminal justice system, and the "war on drugs" have resulted in the most severe impact hitting communities of color. Where African-Americans comprise only 12.2 percent of the population and 13 percent of drug users, they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug offenses and 59 percent of those convicted of drug offenses, causing critics to call the war on drugs the "New Jim Crow." Nationally, an estimated 13 percent of African-American men are unable to vote because of a felony conviction. That's seven times the national average.

    The United States is the only "democracy" in which people who have served their sentences can still lose their right to vote.

    Here is an exerpt from the book:

    If a blogger blogs, and nothing changes, did that blogger actually make a blog?

    ---my Dad

    by Nonie3234 on Wed May 03, 2006 at 11:29:25 AM PDT

  •  Voting Rights Act amendment? (0+ / 0-)

    What about tacking something onto the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act (or trying to)?

    We wouldn't want to jeopardize the Voting Rights Act itself, but an amendment to the reauthorization bill, or an attempt at one, could be one way of giving the issue more attention.

    It would also be one more way of forcing people to take a stance on it, and being able to call them out on it.

    It would put the whole issue in a Civil Rights context, as well.

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