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Posted by on Feb 12, 2009 in At TMV | 4 comments

After Guns, Perhaps Now Votes for Wash. D.C. Residents?

constitution-2.jpg

Just about one year ago, when legislation to give the residents of Washington D.C. the “right to bear arms” was being debated before the U.S. Supreme Court, in a Letter published by the Los Angeles Times, I wrote:

I am well aware that the landmark case presently before the Supreme Court, a case that ostensibly seeks to apply the 2nd Amendment to residents of the District of Columbia will have a significant effect on gun-control legislation laws, far beyond the district.

It would be nice, however, if the same people and organizations, such as Vice President Dick Cheney and his hunting partners, who so generously want to give district residents the “right to keep and bear arms,” would work just as zealously to give the same Americans a far more fundamental right: the right to elect a voting representative in Congress.

As you know, in June of last year, in a landmark decision—Columbia vs. Heller—the Supreme Court struck down the 32-year-old ban on individuals in the District of Columbia having handguns in their homes. As I mention in my letter, this decision has had and will have significant effects on gun-control legislation laws, far beyond the district.

While the Cheney-Bush administration fought so hard—and successfully—to give Washington D.C. residents the right to have handguns in their homes, they fought every step of the way moves to give these same residents that far more fundamental right: the right to elect a voting representative in Congress.

Well, the New York Times reports today that “This could be the year that Washington gets a voting member of Congress.”:

On Wednesday, a Senate committee approved a bill to give the city a voting member of the House of Representatives, clearing the way for the full chamber to take up the matter in the coming weeks.

The legislation would permanently expand the 435-member House by two seats. One seat would go to Washington and the other to Utah, which narrowly missed getting an additional seat after the last census. Utah, which traditionally leans Republican, now has one Democrat and two Republicans in the House.

A similar bill passed in the House in 2007, but the Senate version received only 57 of the 60 necessary votes.

This year, however, with a strong Democratic majority in both houses, supporters of the measure are hopeful — particularly because President Obama, a co-sponsor of the 2007 bill, has said his stance is unchanged.

Of course, Republicans continue to oppose such a measure tooth and nail:

The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has led opposition to the bill , saying it is unconstitutional and that proponents first must pass a constitutional amendment. Republican opponents of the legislation also fear that giving Washington a House member will eventually lead to the city getting two senators, both of whom likely would be Democrats.

Even Republican leaning Lieberman says: “Men and women of the district have fought bravely in our wars, many giving their lives in defense of our country, yet they have no vote on the serious questions of war and peace…”

Well said, Mr. Lieberman. Perhaps you are back on the right page.

Perhaps district residents will now finally have representation to go along with their newly won gun rights.

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  • mikeyes

    I don’t understand your parallel here. In the first place (as you point out later in the article) this was not legislation to give the DC residents the right to have a weapon in the house, it was a challenge to the legislation that already existed.

    In the second place, DC residents were not granted a new right, the already existing right was further defined by the court as an individual right. This has nothing in common with legislation to extend the vote to DC residents.

    DC is not a state and there is a feasible argument that if the residents of DC don’t live in a state, they can’t vote. Residents of PR don’t vote – of course they don’t pay federal taxes either – and they certainly fight and die for their country.

    On the other hand, the Republicans are being disengenuous. If the legislation as proposed is truly unconstitutional, then let it pass and challenge it in court. Such legislation will probably not go into effect until the Court makes a decision and in that sense it is like Heller.

    Personally I think that DC residents should have a way to vote but your argument, such as it is, is not very convincing.

  • DdW

    Mikeeyes:

    Thanks for pointing out my poor word choice in the post and perhaps even in my original letter.

    To be correct, it should have read “to return to” rather than “to give” the residents of Washington D.C. the ‘right to bear arms’…” taken away by the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975,

    As you say: “DC residents were not granted a new right, the already existing right was further defined by the court as an individual right.”

    As to the parallel I drew, I have no apology, nor offer an improvement in my choice of thoughts or words.

    Regardless of Constitutional, historical, “technical” or legal differences (DC is not a state…they don’t pay federal taxes,etc.) between the two issues—call them apples and oranges, if you will), I still maintain that D.C. residents deserve to have representation in Congress. You and Lieberman give one very compelling reason: “Men and women of the district have fought bravely in our wars, many giving their lives in defense of our country, yet they have no vote on the serious questions of war and peace…”

    Now, even though I say, “regardless of Constitutional issues, etc., ” I am very well aware of the political, legal and Constitutional challenges (perhaps even requiring a Constitutional amendment) and roadblocks that lie ahead before District citizens receive all the voting and representation rights other Americans enjoy.

    Anyway, thank you for your comments and valid points and thank you for agreeing that “DC residents should have a way to vote” albeit my argument “such as it is, is not very convincing.”

    Perhaps you can help me making it more convincing.

    Dorian de Wind

  • mikeyes

    For one thing, the Congress saw fit to grant DC the right to presidential electors in light of the fact that they do pay taxes and have all of the obligations of citizens. In addition, the DC population (which is incidentally majority Black although that has no bearing on the argument) exceeds that of at least three states (I think.) The 23rd Amendment was passed in 1961, not a time of great racial harmony, so it is clear that the reason for granting presidential voting rights was related to the inability to exercise a right to vote that exceeded any perception of race at the time.

    It may be possible to grant back the District to the states that ceded the land and allow those citizens to vote for their congressmen and senators. In the mean time the federal government could lease the land that they need back or only keep the land upon which federal buildings exist. They can take other land by eminent domain if needed. That might get around the Constitutional barriers.

  • DdW

    Mikeyes:

    “The 23rd Amendment was passed in 1961, not a time of great racial harmony, so it is clear that the reason for granting presidential voting rights was related to the inability to exercise a right to vote that exceeded any perception of race at the time.”

    That speaks eloquently of the people and politicians in 1961.

    Let’s hope that in 2009, the reason for granting congressional representation (voting rights) to the people of Washington DC will also be related to “the inability to exercise a right to vote that exceeded any perception of ” politics.

    Thanks

    Dorian

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