Commemorating the Anniversary of the Disenfranchisement of DC Residents
“Taxation without Representation is Tyranny.” That cry is at the core of our national psyche and is what drove a ragtag group of colonists to have the audacity to take on and even defeat the most powerful nation on earth. While we as a nation have enjoyed the bountiful harvest of freedom that our Founders delivered to us by their wisdom and courage. The course of our history since our founding has been to slowly extend the American Revolution to those areas where the Founders’ wisdom in hind sight may not have matched their courage. Thus we have seen the full rights of citizenship extended to all Americans regardless of race, creed or gender.
On February 27, 1801, Congress made the District of Columbia the nation’s Capital and on from that day forward has exercised exclusive control over its citizens. At that time, ,Washington, D.C. was a city of 3,200 people, but the District of Columbia included Georgetown and Alexandria, Virginia and combined the city had a population of nearly 11,000 which made it the 6th largest city in the United States. The Organic Act made those citizens “stateless” and Washington residents:
- would not be able to vote for President until 163 years later.
Thirty-three Presidents (from Jefferson to Kennedy) were elected without any vote from District residents.
- would not have a representative in Congress until 169 years later
(even though Puerto Rico has had one since 1898)
- would not elect a Mayor for the District until 173 years later.
The residents of Washington protested then and continue to do so now.
In 2003, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States concluded that the United States is violating the District of Columbia’s rights under Articles II and XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man by denying District of Columbia citizens an effective opportunity to participate in the Congress. The commission reiterated the following recommendation to the United States:
“Provide the Petitioners with an effective remedy, which includes adopting the legislative or other measures necessary to guarantee to the Petitioners the effective right to participate, directly or through freely chosen representatives and in general conditions of equality, in their national legislature.”
Yesterday, on the 212th anniversary of the Organic Act, I spoke with DC Delegate to Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton on Cyber Law and Business Report. I wanted the internet community, and all Americans to understand that while Washington may be a booming city home to a thriving tech sector its residents still
- have no voting rights in Congress, as they only have a non-voting delegate in the House and no representation in the Senate; and
- all city laws remain subject to Congressional veto something that was exploited for political purposes in the 1980s by then-Senator Jesse Helms to veto a number of DC laws.
I encourage you to listen to the last 15 minutes of the show (below) and to visit DCVote.org. We have placed our national prestige on ensuring that places as tiny as East Timor have the right to choose their destiny though democratic means, why then do we continue to ignore the disenfranchisement of the citizens of Washington. After 212 years, isn’t it time that we found the courage and the wisdom to do what is right in Washington?