Will Wilson is a former GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
DC Vote, the bill that would give DC and Utah each one new representative, just made it through Senate committee and is headed to the floor. As a taxpaying DC resident, this issue is close to my heart and I'm all in favor of getting Congressional representation--taxation without representation is no less atrocious now than it was two hundred years ago. That said, I think the present bill represents just about everything that is wrong with the way the system works.
To begin with, the bill's Constitutionality is debatable at best. Setting aside the words "several States" in Article 1, Section 2 -- which are the basis of the bill's Constitutional problems, whatever your stance on it -- the bill gives EVERY citizen in Utah TWO representatives until the next reapportionment. That simply defies the spirit of representative democracy, to say nothing of the Constitution.
Why is Utah getting two? The answer gets right to the heart of the problem: it is the politically expedient solution. Now, it might be simply naive to think that giving taxpayers representation should be beyond politics, but in every other context most would agree that loading the voting dice in order satisfy political ends would be abhorrent philosophically--not to mention politically unstable.
That this has become a political issue for Congress only shows how wormy U.S. lawmaking has become. It is either morally/legally right that DCers (and DCists) get the right to vote, or it isn't. It has NOTHING to do with Utah, with Republocrats and Demicans, or quotidian politics.
Of course, that raises another galling problem. Of all the things the things that really should not be the business of the U.S. Congress, deciding who does and who does not get to join the U.S. Congress heads the list. As one law professor points out, if the right to vote can be given legislatively, it can be taken away legislatively. That would be, to say the least, a frightening development.
All of which, unfortunately for District folks who hope for a rep soon, points toward the need for an amendment. But that shouldn't mean the end of the world. If Congress were serious--and not just appropriating dubious powers--they might fly another DC amendment up the flagpole, but this time without a seven-year limit for ratification.
Last time, in just seven years, 16 of the requisite 38 states passed the amendment. About the best that can be said for the present bill is that its national coverage might put the wind at the sails of another amendment attempt.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.