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A Real Plan for DC Voting Rights and Home Rule

  • We believe that residents of the District of Columbia should have voting rights in the US Senate and House of Representatives equal to those of all other Americans.
  • We support Maryland-based solutions that provide full voting rights in the House and Senate and real home-rule for the residents of the District of Columbia.
  • Our two-part plan calls for Congress to restore the right of DC residents to vote as part of the Maryland electorate for congressional representation, and to support Washington becoming a new home-rule city in Maryland.

Contact Us

Committee for the Capital City
PO Box 77443
Washington, DC 20013-8443
Rick Dykema, "D.C. can get voting rights through Maryland", the Northwest Current, 8/27/03 PDF Print E-mail
The Current Newspapers
August 27, 2003

D.C. can get voting rights through Maryland

Richard T. (Rick) Dykema

When Mark Plotkin first revealed on WTOP that Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., was developing a voting rights proposal that would provide congressional representation for D.C. through Maryland without a constitutional amendment, few knew that a small but influential D.C. group had a month earlier briefed first Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and then Congressman Davis' staff, on exactly such a proposal.

Although Congressman Davis has not yet decided on most aspects of his forthcoming plan, a legal team formed by Del. Norton has already issued a series of questions about it that they apparently think are difficult to answer ("Norton task force raises questions on voting plan," The Current, Aug. 20).

The Current is to be commended for seeing beyond the Norton team's fears and doubts to conclude that "most of the questions raised by the task force can be addressed relatively easily" ("Voting rights," editorial, Aug. 20). As a matter of fact, all of the task force questions about the "representation through Maryland" concept have already been answered in a detailed memo by the group that made those first quiet Capitol Hill briefings, the Committee for the Capital City. So, as long as Congressman Davis' eventual proposal follows the outlines of the Committee for the Capital City draft bill, he will have no problem with these questions.

The committee's proposal, titled the "District of Columbia Voting Rights Restoration Act of 2003," would temporarily expand the House of Representatives to 436 members, providing an additional seat to Maryland based on the addition of D.C.'s population. (Congressman Davis would also add a seat for Utah, which barely missed gaining a seat in the last Congress.)

The D.C. Voting Rights Restoration Act would re-enfranchise D.C. residents by restoring the federal electoral rights that were stripped from them by the Organic Act of 1801 -- a bill Congress enacted 10 years after the District was first formed. By restoring these rights of Maryland citizenship, the bill ensures that all D.C. residents will have the right to vote for, run for and serve as U.S. senators, U.S. representatives and presidential electors from Maryland.

The bill heads off any opportunities for coercion from Annapolis by requiring that D.C. be kept intact in any new redistricting, with population from Montgomery and/or Prince George's counties added only as necessary to make the 9th District ("the D.C. district") of Maryland equal in population to the other Maryland districts. (Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the rules state legislatures must follow for congressional redistricting.)

The task force report tries to get Davis to consider a bill to treat D.C. as if it were a state of its own for purposes of House representation. But not only would such a proposal leave D.C. out in the cold as far as Senate representation is concerned, but also it is clearly unconstitutional. The decision that was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the D.C. voting rights cases made clear that trying to grant D.C. congressional representation "as if it were a state" will not fly. But the same decision approvingly notes how Congress successfully restored state citizenship rights, including voting rights, to other people who live in areas under exclusive federal control.

D.C. residents need to let their elected officials know -- should they push Davis to go with an unconstitutional D.C.-only bill that wouldn't get them more than House representation anyway? Or should they push for full and equal federal representation (House, Senate, and President) through the bipartisan, constitutional approach of the D.C. Voting Rights Restoration Act? Hopefully, this question won't be too tough for D.C. residents to answer.

Richard T. (Rick) Dykema

Richard T. (Rick) Dykema, chief of staff and legislative director to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., was a Republican professional staff member for the House Committee on the District of Columbia from 1989 to 1995 and is a member of the Committee for the Capital City.