Supporting Suffrage in D.C.

Put aside the image of Washington as the country's power center. Instead, think about the people who actually live there.

Unlike US citizens in the 50 states, they have no vote in Congress.

This isn't exactly a hot-button issue for the 99.98 percent of the US population outside the District of Columbia. But for Washington (population 554,000), it's increasingly so. And as a matter of democratic principle, it should be at least of some concern to the rest of the US.

Last week saw the latest example of democratic principles trampled. In a move opposed to the city's gun-safety law, the House voted to allow residents to have in their homes shotguns, rifles, and select handguns that are loaded and unlocked.

This directly contradicts the wishes of the mayor, city council, and residents. But of course, Washingtonians have no say, because they have no vote (although they do have one nonvoting representative).

The Constitution puts D.C. under the jurisdiction of the Congress. A constitutional amendment giving the city full voting rights passed Congress in 1978, but never made it through state ratification. Frustrated, the city has turned to symbolic pressure, such as a license plate that reads "Taxation Without Representation."

Now there's an opportunity to go beyond symbolic support. A House committee will hold hearings this month on four bills on D.C. voting rights. Overcoming the main concern about upsetting the political balance in Congress, one of the bills would offset one voting House seat for D.C. (heavily Democratic) with a new one for Utah (heavily Republican).

It's the most likely bill to pass, and while it may be open to constitutional challenge, it would at least push the nation toward a fuller democracy.

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