Loose Lips

“Help Us, China!” and Other Plans for D.C. Voting Rights

Positive tweets from Cory Booker aside, the District's attempts to get a vote in Congress hasn't had the clearest path lately. Nevertheless, law scholars, politicians, lawyers, and judges came together Friday to discuss various strategies for turning the District's delegate into a representative at an event sponsored by the William and Mary Election Law Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Some were optimistic that activists could secure voting rights for everyone, while others saw the movement as a waste of time. Here are three possible courses of action for the District that came out of the event:

Amend the constitution: A constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote for all U.S. citizens would extend voting rights not just to D.C. residents but also to ex-felons and citizens of U.S. territories.

Enlist Foreign Allies: Even panelists who argued in favor of a constitutional amendment noted the difficulty in making the issue a priority for Congress. One audience member asked the panel if international pressure could help spur Congress into action: “What if the government of China were encouraged to raise this issue as a human rights violation every time the U.S. raise human rights violations with them?”

While former Virginia Congressman Tom Davis said that bringing pressure from the outside world could help the movement, fellow panelist Robert Bauer, the Democratic National Committee's general counsel, was skeptical that getting caught up in a geopolitical conflict would benefit the District in any way.

Give Up: Given the many obstacles to securing voting rights for D.C. residents, some panelists suggested shifting the focus of the movement. According to George Washington University Law professor David Fontana, trying to win enough Congressional and national support for a constitutional amendment is a waste of scarce resources. Instead, the District should redirect its efforts toward trying to gain the authority to impose a commuter tax on nonresidents employed in the District.

 “I lived in D.C., and I would love to be represented in Congress,” Fontana said. “But I’d also like to have a unicorn in my backyard that I could go and play with when I get back from class.”

  • Typical DC BS

    Solution #4 - give most of DC back to Maryland, keeping a small core for a federal enclave. End of story. The other solutions are ridiculous.

  • MarkWisdom

    Here is an idea, subsume DC back into Maryland where it came from in the first place, SHAZAM, you instantly become just another illiterate dysfunctional city, like Detroit. Problem solved!

  • Abominable Dr. Phibes

    I got a solution. Let's harass the shit out of people coming into our city.

  • Alex

    Or best idea, both from a practicality and ease of enforcement: DC residents no longer required to pay Federal Income Tax. No Taxation without Representation.

  • Typical DC BS

    Sure Alex - then we can treat DC residents like the residents of Puerto Rico and have them pay ALL their taxes to DC. Look how well that turned out for Puerto Rico - they're as bankrupt as Detroit.

  • 7r3y3r

    @Typical DC BS - you obviously don't understand taxation in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans pay nearly every type of federal tax except income tax. Federal employees and people who earn any income outside of PR have to pay federal income taxes.

  • David C

    I think the best strategy is this:

    Work on Democrats. Convince them that DC statehood is good for the party (Two additional Senators and 1 house member, possibly more electoral college votes) and the right thing to do. Wait for Democrats to have total control again and then have them pass a statehood bill. It might require a constitutional amendment to clean up the DC Elector amendment, but Republicans won't oppose that once DC has statehood.

  • Typical DC BS

    @7r3y3r: I OBVIOUSLY understand taxation in Puerto Rico. I replied to Alex, who stated that DC should not pay FEDERAL income taxes in protest. That's what I responded to.
    Now, maybe you can explain what other type of "federal" tax Puerto Ricans pay, since I'm unaware of what other type of federal "taxes" we pay as Americans? If Puerto Ricans pay federal fees, that's different from "taxes".