D.C.: Largely disenfranchised

Citizens of Washington D.C. hold no representative vote in the House and Senate. Did you know that? Chances are, you didn’t. But maybe you knew they’ve only been able to vote for president since 1964.-

Recently, a poll conducted by DC Vote (a non-profit organization in which I am a proud, card-carrying member of) showed that “82 percent of Americans believe citizens of Washington, D.C. should have equal congressional voting rights.” Also, “78 percent of Americans have serious misunderstandings about the rights of citizens living in D.C., but, when informed of D.C.’s disenfranchisement, they support equal voting representation in Congress for D.C. residents.”

A thorn in my side ever since I became politically active, D.C. statehood has always been my niche issue. Yes, I am a frequent visitor to the District, I plan on moving there for a career and I am envious of the collegiate opportunities of Georgetown, George Washington, Howard and American Universities.

I also wish to stand up for the less-fortunate, downtrodden half of my beloved beltway crucible in multicultural neighborhoods like U Street or Columbia Heights. Neighborhoods like Barnaby Woods or Tenleytown, however, are full of bourgeois lobbyists that don’t really need representation, seeing as they can just buy it. Nonetheless, it seems hard for others to understand how serious and overlooked this issue is. It represents an ugly, unspeakable divide of rich and poor, black and white, the enfranchised and the disenfranchised.

Everyone from the late former President Richard Nixon (R-Calif.) to Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) has expressed concern over this issue for over the past 40 years, demonstrating a bipartisan bridge on the issue. In 1999, President Bill Clinton placed D.C.’s new, government-sponsored license plates (reading: “No Taxation Without Representation”) on the White House’s limousines in the last months of his final term. Our current president seemed to hurriedly remove the tags.

After all, in a city with over half a million people, more than 60 percent of them being non-white, and up to 90 percent of the District voting Democrat in the last 11 presidential elections – this is an issue whose time has come, especially in a Republican-led political climate. It can no longer be ignored.

Thankfully, Sen. Joe Leiberman (D-Conn.) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) held a recent press conference, garnering some much-needed exposure to this issue. The press conference introduced the “No Taxation Without Representation Act,” which would more than likely guarantee one of four possibilities for the District of Columbia:

D.C. statehood direct statutory enfranchisement (the District would be a state in just about every way except name), retrocession to Maryland (at Maryland legislature discretion, they take D.C. residents as citizens and electors), or combine D.C. into Maryland. These possibilities are, of course, ordered from least to most compromised on behalf of D.C. residents.

What will happen? I don’t know, but I’ll be sure to do my part. My family’s lineage traces back to a history of fighting against pointless injustices, particularly those regarding taxation without representation. In 1775, my ancestor Paul Revere let out the first rallying cry of the American Revolution. I am now letting out my rallying cry for a District Revolution. For more information, go to http://www.dcvote.org/ to find out.

Paul de Revere is a freshman newspaper journalism student from Tallahassee. He can be reached at paulderev@yahoo.com