Washington, D.C. has a population of nearly 600,000 American citizens, who pay taxes, and serve in the military. Yet, none of them get a vote in Congress. That’s over half a million Americans living at the seat of the federal government, yet none are afforded the right to take part in its legislative process.
The District is “represented” in Congress by a non-voting delegate. U.S. territories such as Guam and Puerto Rico have similar delegates in Congress. However, unlike Guam or Puerto Rico, the District is subject to all federal taxes. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting delegate of D.C., has taken this democratic oversight as her signature cause.
DC Vote has also been championing this cause since their inception in 1998, bringing attention to this worthy cause, fighting for legislation and even helping to introduce the iconic “Taxation Without Representation” slogan that appears on DC license plates.
The effort for DC Voting Rights enjoyed a moment in the national spotlight in August 2008 when Eleanor Holmes Norton spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Norton implored the convention to apply common sense to this unnecessary miscarriage of justice. “The revolutionaries,” she said, “did not create a nation to get the vote, only to turn around and deny the vote to the citizens of their own capital.”
Proponents of DC Voting Rights argue that DC citizens are being treated unjustly. For example, in 2007, DC residents and businesses paid over $20 billion in taxes, or more than the taxes collected from 19 states. And with nearly 600,000 residents, the District has more citizens than the entire state of Wyoming. Yet, Wyoming has a seat in the House of Representatives, as well as two senators.
However, opponents of the movement maintain that Wyoming and the other 49 states are just that: states. And therefore they enjoy the representational democracy afforded by the Constitution. While the District may exist in some sort of legal limbo, it is one that exists within the parameters of the Constitution.
A more sinister theory exists that opponents of the movement are doing so to maintain party balance. Put another way, giving a seat to the District would be almost an automatic seat to the Democratic party. A compromise was floated to offer an additional seat to the usually Republican-leaning state of Utah . But to date all efforts to pass this legislation in the House have stalled.