Thursday, February 26, 2009

DC (finally) Gets the Vote!

In a big piece of news for those you "Damn Liberals" who plan to move to our nation's capitol after graduation, D.C. may very soon have a REAL congressional representative (right now the district is represented by Eleanor Holmes-Norton, who can speak in the House of Representatives, but can't actually vote and thus does not actually matter).

Quick history: The District of Columbia was created as a federal district with no congressional represenation on purpose. This was supposed to be neutral ground, where no member of congress had constituents. But just cause the people of DC didn't vote for congressmen, didn't mean that the Congress left them alone.

In fact, congress had direct control over the government of DC starting with the Organic Act of 1801. This wasn't so bad when DC was just a swamp with a couple of federal buildings, but it eventually became complicated for a real city to get an act of congress passed every time they needed to appropriate money for fire engines or side walks or something. With its usual speed and efficiency, congress fixed this beuracratic problem....172 years later. In 1973, the DC Home Rule Act was passed, granting DC its own mayor and city government.

Besides being very badly run by congress, DC has always gotten the shaft when it came to voting rights. Until 1961, DC residents could not vote for anything! In 1961, they were finally alotted 3 seats in the electoral college and were thus allowed to vote in Presidential elections.

Here's the real kicker: Despite not being able to vote and having no representation in Congress, DC residents still pay taxes. In fact, they pay a lot of taxes, both District and Federal taxes. Yet, they have no say in the decisions of the government that taxes them.

If this is all starting to sound eerily familiar to your AP US History class, you might be amused to know that like the original American Revolutionaries, people in DC have an official slogan: "No Taxation Without Representation". Seriously, it's even on their license plates.

But that is all about to change

Today, the Senate passed the DC voting rights act by a 61-37 vote margin. If it passes the House (and it almost certainly will) DC will get its very first congressional representative. A real one, with votes and power.

Why the long struggle to get this passed? Republicans have long been against DC getting representation because the district is as "blue" an area as they get. Why give the Democrats a gauranteed extra seat when Constitutionally, you don't have to? Even though this seat is in the House and does not effect the Dems' razor-thin majority in the Senate, political parties rarely cede power in any chamber willingly.

To sweeten the deal for Republicans, a seat will also be added in the House for Utah, a more solidly Republican state. BUT Utah was probably due to get an extra seat in the House in a couple of years anyway, because of its quickly growing population (Remember that House seats are apportioned based on population as calculated by the most recent Census, and all those Mormons be havin' lots of babies). So really this is still a big Democratic win. Yay!

Of course, it will almost certainly be challenged in court and the law may be struck down. But if it stands, DC will finally get some of the representation it deserves, and the Dems gain one more seat in their favor.