An End Game for D.C. Representation in Congress

Richard Hasen makes an intriguing argument over at Slate. Congress should approve legislation to give Washington, D.C. congressional representation, even though it's probably ...
by | January 29, 2009
 

Richard Hasen makes an intriguing argument over at Slate. Congress should approve legislation to give Washington, D.C. congressional representation, even though it's probably unconstitutional:

If the current D.C. voting rights law is indeed unconstitutional, then the only way to get D.C. a full House member is the way that gave district residents the right to vote for president: a constitutional amendment that would either make D.C. a state, give it a member of Congress (and possibly two senators) without making it a state, or merge D.C. back into a neighboring state, such as Maryland. But constitutional amendments are extremely difficult to pass, requiring a vote of two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states. With a country preoccupied by the most serious economic troubles of our lifetimes and two wars, voting rights for D.C. is not at the top of the list. Despite broad public support for some form of voting rights for D.C., the forces of inertia are strong.

This is precisely why Congress should pass the current law, even if it is likely to be struck down by the Supreme Court. Rejection by the court would put the issue on the front burner. Obama could then push for quick passage of a constitutional amendment in Congress and the states. He could remind people that many of our most important advances to voting rights have come through constitutional amendment, including enfranchisement of African-Americans, women, 18-year-olds, D.C. residents (in presidential elections), and those too poor to pay a poll tax to vote in federal elections.

Regardless of what you think of D.C. voting rights, I think we can agree on one thing: The scenario that Hasen envisions, where each state legislature is asked to weigh in on a constitutional amendment on congressional representation for the District, would be great fun.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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