Washington DC Is Poised to Get the Vote

October 29, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) - Outraged at having no vote in Congress, the District of Columbia expressed its indignation with the federal government in 2000 by introducing license plates that boldly proclaim "Taxation Without Representation."

President Bush had the popular tags removed from the presidential limousine when he took office.

Now, with a more sympathetic Barack Obama leading in the polls and Democrats poised to widen their majorities in Congress, voting rights advocates believe their long-simmering frustration over the city's lack of representation could soon end.

Residents of Washington, now numbering nearly 600,000, have lacked a vote in Congress for two centuries. It is the only major capital in the world where citizens are denied a vote in the nation's representative body of government.

Adding to the indignity, advocates say, is a meddlesome Congress that interferes with the city's budget and recently voted to ease D.C.'s gun control restrictions.

D.C. came close to winning the vote last year when the House passed legislation that would have expanded its full membership from 435 to 437. Besides giving a seat to the overwhelmingly Democratic D.C., the bill would have added a temporary at-large seat for Republican-leaning Utah.

But the bill stalled during a procedural vote in the Senate, falling three votes short of the 60 needed to move the measure forward. Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, was among those who voted against the bill. Republican opponents argued the Constitution limits representation to "the people of the several states."

The district's residents have been fighting for voting rights since 1801, a year after the capital was moved to Washington from Philadelphia.

Residents were prohibited from voting in presidential elections until 1961, when the 23rd Amendment was ratified. They won the right to elect their own mayor and a 13-member city council under the 1973 Home Rule Act.

Five years later, Congress approved a constitutional amendment giving D.C. a vote in the House and Senate. But it was only ratified by 16 states - short of the three-fourths necessary to become law.

The voting rights issue has gained momentum in recent years. Eight years ago, the city began printing license plates with the "Taxation Without Representation" slogan in hopes of educating Americans that its residents lack a vote despite paying federal taxes.

Shortly before leaving office, President Clinton placed the tags on his presidential limousine in a symbolic gesture of support. Bush quickly reversed course.

Perturbed but resolute, voting rights advocates have continued to press their message. Last winter, they staged their own version of the Boston Tea Party by dumping crushed leaves that symbolized
tea into the Potomac River. And in August, a go-go style music video was released on YouTube in which musician Joe L. Da Vessel sings "For D.C. we demand the vote."

Still, the district has struggled to get out its message. In a
2005 poll by DC Vote, 78 percent of those surveyed nationally
believed D.C. had a vote in Congress.

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