Best D.C. Voting Rights Advocate

Best: Shadow Rep. Mike Panetta
2nd Best: Martin Austermuhle
Panetta’s writings about voting rights are filled with winsome fantasies of congressional power (“I would offer a friendly amendment to remove the metal [detectors] from the Capitol Complex and have the gun laws apply to Congress itself. Sounds like a fair deal to me”). Austermuhle’s are much more emo: Words like “injustice,” “agonizing,” and “depressing” dot the DCist senior editor’s frequent blog posts, which are all the more poignant because Austermuhle, 29, cannot vote in the United States. “I don’t really have a good reason why this issue touches a nerve with me. It just does,” says the Swiss-Dutch dual national, who’s been in D.C. for seven of his 12 years in the States, via e-mail. “For all the real injustices in the world, I find it incredibly foolish that District residents have to spend as much time as they do pleading for rights that pretty much everyone else in the civilized world assumes are a given.” And through his efforts, he’s earned the right to feel the salient characteristic of this issue: fatigue. “I periodically find myself giving up on the whole debate,” Austermuhle writes, “but then someone else goes and says something surprisingly ignorant about D.C. voting rights....I can’t very well go and give up on a worthy cause when there are very dedicated activists and residents out there who lobby, protest and complain about this on a daily basis. For them it’s personal; for me it’s mostly principle.”