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District of Columbia: Where The Feds Will Take Your Money But Won't Give You Representation

by Ryan Swanzey, published

In the United States, every citizen over the age of 18 has the right to vote a congressman or congresswoman into office to represent the interests of his or her district -- except for roughly 650,000 citizens who have the misfortune of living within a 100 square mile grid surrounding the nation’s capitol.

Although the city of Washington, D.C. has a congresswoman -- U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton -- she is a non-voting delegate. Unlike territories like Guam or Puerto Rico that also have a non-voting representative, the citizens of Washington pay approximately $4 billion in federal taxes annually. Citizens pay an average of $6,500 per year, or twice the national average. They are being taxed without representation. This was a cause of the Revolutionary War.

There wasn’t even a local government until the Home Rule Act was passed on Christmas Eve in 1973, allowing for the citizens to elect a mayor and city council. Even so, they lack the typical checks offered by the institutions of local and state governance with the capitol just a short walk down the road.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution grants Congress the power to govern the District of Columbia. While some argue that making DC the 51st state would finally treat the people who live there as equal citizens, that would surely require a constitutional amendment. If legislation were the next best alternative, there would be no means for citizens of Washington, D.C. to also be represented in the U.S. Senate, just like every other US citizen.

Past efforts to address this issue have fallen short. The D.C. Voting Rights Act of 2007 passed the House of Representatives by a substantial 241-177 majority, only to be blocked from a vote by the Senate. The D.C. House Voting Rights Act of 2009 similarly passed the Senate by a 61-37 margin, but it was never taken up by the House.

The District of Columbia has a population greater than the cities of Baltimore and Boston, or the states of Vermont and Wyoming. What would be the reaction if an executive order were issued tomorrow revoking the voting power of the representatives elected to serve those areas? Every American should have full representation in Congress, not just democracy in name only.

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