Staff editorial: Symbolic D.C.'vote' in Congress won't help much

Last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill giving limited voting rights to House delegates from D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The delegates can now vote in the Committee of the Whole, which considers amendments. This new right comes with one important restriction, though: If the delegates' votes would actually provide the margin of victory for one side, their votes are thrown out and regular representatives re-vote.

In addition to this measure, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) reintroduced a bill that would give one full House seat to D.C. and another to Utah. Proponents are optimistic for the bill's passage because Utah's probable Republican representative and D.C.'s probable Democrat would maintain party balance.

Ultimately, it's unfair that the District has had to fight so hard for a measure that, according to Norton, "offers so little for Americans who have given so much." The current system reduces Norton and the rest of the delegates to little more than taxpayer-supported lobbyists who must rely on the goodwill of their colleagues to effect change for those they represent.

There is something distinctly un-American about denying congressional representation rights to residents of our nation's capital, who pay taxes and perform all the same duties as all other U.S. citizens.

It's not as if D.C. has significantly fewer people than the rest of the nation. According to a U.S. Census Bureau estimate, 550,521 people lived in the District in 2005. Wyoming, however, which is granted full voting rights, was home to only 509,294 people in 2005, also according to a Census Bureau estimate.

D.C.'s unique geographical position also makes its lack of voting rights particularly cruel. District residents can travel just a few miles and freely cross a state line to Maryland or Virginia, where residents have complete rights.

Some opponents claim there's a conflict of interest for the seat of the national government to have a say in how it is run. They fail to realize, however, that elected legislative officials maintain voting residency in their home states, not in D.C. Also, since Congress controls D.C.'s budget, it would be nice if D.C. residents had a voting voice in that process.

When put in another light, denial of full voting rights to the residents of the nation's capital just seems silly. A state wouldn't deny voting rights to the residents of its state capital, so makes it OK on a national scale?

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