Restore Democracy in our Nation’s Capital

Sep 13, 2007

Washington DC flag - 3 red stars, two red stripes

On April 19, 2007 the D.C. Voting Rights Act (H.R.1905) passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 241-177. This is the first time in a generation that the House has passed a bill that works toward bringing voting representation to the 550,000 Americans living in our Nation’s Capital. Meanwhile, on May 1, 2007 Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Bob Bennett (R-UT), introduced the D.C. House Voting Rights Act (S.1257) in the Senate. On June 13, 2007 S.1257 passed in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs with bipartisan support, by a vote of 9-1.

With enhanced bipartisan support, S.1257 has enormous momentum and unequivocal majority support from Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. In spite of the Senate majority, 60 votes are required to avoid a filibuster. Historically, filibusters of equal rights legislation have been discredited (examine voting rights bills in the 1960s). A Washington Post poll, earlier this year, concluded that 61 percent of adult Americans support a House vote for the District.

The support is not surprising because District residents have fought in every American war and rank second in per capita income taxes paid to support our Democracy. Similar to the reauthorization of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (2006), the D.C. Voting Rights Act would give a House vote to a majority African-American jurisdiction. According to Congressional scholars, the United States Congress has the vested and legitimate authority to grant voting rights to the District of Columbia.

Legislative Intent

The D.C. Voting Rights Act was crafted as a political compromise and is politically neutral. Under this legislation, the District of Columbia would get a House vote for the first time in 206 years, and Utah would get the seat it was denied because of counting irregularities in the 2000 Census.

This historic legislation would ensure that the approximately 550,000 Americans in the District of Columbia as well as the residents of Utah are properly represented in Congress. As noted, Congress as a separate entity has always had jurisdiction over civil rights for the residents of the District of Columbia. Congress abolished slavery in the District nine months prior to the Emancipation Proclamation; segregated public accommodations and schools until the Brown decision in 1954; and prohibited home rule for the District to govern itself until 1974.

To this end, Congress has remedied these and other inequities through its constitutional authority pertaining to all matters related to the District of Columbia. The Supreme Court asserts that this power is “full and unlimited” and provides Congress with the wherewithal to grant the District voting rights in the House of Representatives.

Action Required

Please call the Capitol switchboard to contact your senators at 202-224-3121 and urge them to support the D.C. Voting Rights Act (S.1257).

NASW believes that enactment of S.1257 will affirm the bedrock Democratic principles of this Republic. Social Workers do not contend that this nation’s Founders would have systematically denied representation to the residents of the new capital they established. Continued disenfranchisement of District of Columbia residents is one of the most blatant violations of an imperative civil right, which is the unabridged right to vote

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