February 16, 2009 Policy

DC Congressional Voting Rights

09M10D

Report of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia

Recommendation

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association supports the prompt enactment at this session of Congress of legislation such as S. 160 and S.R. 157, the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009, to grant equal voting rights in Congress for the District of Columbia.

Report

Introduction

The residents of the District of Columbia do not have voting representation in the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House. As a result, tax-bearing, military-serving U.S. citizens residing in DC do not have a voice in the national government that governs their lives.

Background

The ABA has supported voting rights for the residents of the District of Columbia for a decade (see Resolution 99A 115). The Board of Governors, on motion of Governor Carolyn B. Lamm of the District of Columbia, made this a priority issue for the ABA.

Progress has been made during the last Congress, when the U.S. House passed a bill granting voting representation in the House to DC residents. But the bill died in the Senate, lacking 3 votes of the 60 needed to prevent a filibuster.

U.S. Representative (DC Delegate) Eleanor Holmes Norton and U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman introduced respective versions of the DC House Voting Rights Act of 2009 on the first day of this session of Congress, January 6, 2009.

U.S. President Barack Obama has indicated support of the right of the citizens of the District of Columbia to voting representation in Congress, so there is no risk of a presidential veto (as there was under the previous president).

U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has stated his desire to move the DC voting rights legislation through Congress expeditiously. 

U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing on the DC House Voting Rights Act on January 27, 2009 and a mark-up is expected soon.

As noted above, the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee has already voted the legislation out of Committee on a vote of 11 to 1 on February 11, 2009, so the bill may be called up for floor action at any time.

Conclusion

The ABA has consistently supported legislation to grant voting rights for the residents of the District of Columbia. With the DC House Voting Rights Act of 2009 poised to come up for final consideration in this Congress, the ABA should weigh in to urge the passage of this long delayed legislation as soon as possible in the present session.