D.C. Voting Rights

Ten Reasons Why You Should Care About D.C. Voting Rights

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Ten Reasons Why You Should Care About D.C. Voting Rights

July 4, 2015

For the last several years, I have marked Independence Day by making note of the fact that taxation without representation is alive and well in Washington, D.C. today.

As a former District of Columbia resident who is now living fully represented in California, I am surprised by the indifference that exists to the plight of Washington’s 658,893 residents who are heavily taxes yet have no voting representation in Congress.

It seems maybe we have become too comfortable with this denial of liberty, so I decided to put together the slide show below and offer one simple challenge: name one legitimate reason why the residents of the District of Columbia should not be entitled to voting representation in Congress today.

If you cannot, then you should tell your Congressperson it is time to make this a “more perfect union” and bring the American revolution to Washington, D.C.

#1: Ending Taxation without Representation

foundersdc2The status quo is never a reason to ignore injustice. For example, in the eyes of the Founding Fathers District of Columbia Mayor Bowser was 3/5 of a person and would not have had any right to vote even if she were white. We corrected that, why stop there? The fact that over 600,000 U.S. citizens still endure taxation without representation should compel action.

Former Chief Justice William Renhquist once stated

The need for an amendment [providing representation for the District] at this late date in our history is too self-evident for further elaboration; continued denial of voting representation from the District of Columbia can no longer be justified.

#2: The District of Columbia has a larger population than Wyoming and Vermont


Based on current estimates, the District of Columbia has a larger population than Vermont and Wyoming both of whom have full voting representation in Congress with two Senators and one Congressperson.

#3: DC’s GDP equals ME’s and RI’s Combined


In fact, the District of Columbia’s GDP is larger than that of New Mexico, Hawaii (pictured), West Virginia, New Hampshire, Idaho, Delaware, North Dakota, Alaska, Maine, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Rhode Island and Vermont.

#4: DC Pays The Most Federal Taxes


Washington, D.C. residents pay $1.6 billion a year in federal taxes – more per person than the residents of every state. In contrast, residents of Puerto Rico and other territories that have no voting representation in Congress do not pay federal income taxes.

In 1765, when James Otis declared “taxation without representation is tyranny.” it became the rallying cry for a revolution. Yet two centuries later, taxation without representation still occurs every day two in our own capitol, but no one seems to care.

#5: DC Has Lost More Heroes Than 20 States


The next time you dismiss the District of Columbia as a tiny enclave, remember that this “tiny enclave” has lost more of its sons and daughters to the defense of liberty than 20 other states. That is total, not per capita. In World War II, it lost more heroes than 19 states and had the highest per capita casualty rate in the country (one per 219 residents). If you walked two blocks, you probably passed the house of a Gold Star mother.

#6: DC Residents Have No Say in Our National Debate

The District of Columbia has a non-voting Delegate to the House of Representatives. Residents have no vote on federal decisions that impact their lives from taxation to whether to go to war. It has no voice at all on Supreme Court or other nominees or treaties since it has no representation in the Senate.

#7: Congress Can Repeal DC Laws and Use of Local Funds


“WV YG 2012” by Vkm415 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The photo above is from the 2012 West Virginia Youth in Government held in the state capitol. Imagine telling the students that Congress could repeal any West Virginia law or direct how they spend local funds? Of course our system of federalism prevents that from happening in West Virginia, but that is still the case in the District of Columbia. Congress is currently attempting to repeal a referendum passed by District voters decriminalizing marijuana. See The DC Marijuana Battle: It’s About More Than Weed.

#8: Denying DC Voting Rights is a Human Rights Violation

human rights2
The United Nations Human Rights Commission has cited the denial of voting representation to District of Columbia residents as a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States similarly concluded that the United States is violating the District of Columbia’s rights under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

#9: Justice for East Timor, but not DC? 

“Dili and Atauro Island” by Nick Hobgood – Uploaded on Flickr as Dili and Atauro Island. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Think of some of the far corners of the planet that the United States has sent troops to protect liberty and self-determination including East Timor. Yet in our own nation’s capitol, people have no say in Congress. As columnist Carl Rowan once noted, “It is often easier to become outraged by injustice half a world away than by oppression and discrimination half a block from home.”

#10 It’s Time to Bring the American Revolution to DC

Daniel Lobo, DC Vote: Washington amordazado Creative Commons on Flickr

Whether it is via a constitutional amendment or statehood, as Republican Congressman Tom Davis once noted, “it’s hard to make a straight-faced argument that the capital of the free world shouldn’t have a vote in Congress.” Utah Congressman Chris Cannon (R-UT) explained:

This transcends partisanship. We need to start giving the vote to people who haven’t had the vote in the District of Columbia, and that’s the right thing to do, not the partisan thing to do.

There is a long line of Republicans who have called for voting rights that,over the years includes President Nixon and Senators Howard Baker, Prescott Bush (the uncle of President George H.W. Bush), Bob Dole and even Strom Thurmond. Yet sadly today the fact that the District of Columbia would likely elect a Democratic member(s) to Congress is considered a sufficient reason to deny this fundamental right.

Was the American Revolution about political power or liberty for all? On this important day, please remember that the American Revolution still has some work to do. Let the city that bears our first President’s name enjoy the revolution he so valiantly won.


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