Saturday, November 15


Sam Smith

Local activists,
encouraged by the change in the political scene, are proposing a variety of strategies to end or change DC's status. For the past few years, the issue has been in the hands of the a taxpayer subsidized movement whose sole pathetic aim has been to give Eleanor Norton a vote in the House. While it has never been clear whether the DC Vote crowd were just wimps or covertly trying to suppress any real opposition to the city's colonial status, the effect has clearly been the latter. Not since the 1950s has the city been so passive about its rights.

Now things seem to be changing. Sam Jordan wrote the other day to talk about tacking on some real self-government provisions to the Norton vote bill: "Public pressure would insist that any such bill would include concrete measures for complete local autonomy - judicial, legislative and budgetary. After all, what is the value of a vote in the House without control of our own affairs?"

And Ann Loikow writes: "Longtime Cleveland Park businessman Wally Dickson [has] suggested that now was the time to make an all out effort for statehood for D.C. He suggested erecting signs/posters throughout the city using the enormously successful slogans used by the Obama campaign: 'This is the moment! Statehood for DC NOW! Yes We Can!' He suggested that we should try to get signs with this slogan placed in every front yard in the city and that we should urge the DC Democratic Committee and those interested in full democracy for the District's residents to fund this project immediately so that signs could start going up before the end of November. . .

"He noted that some argue for doing this in stages, one step at a time, but this gives too much to the go slow bottom of the agenda folks who would continue to deny, delay, defer giving Washingtonians their basic democratic right to vote and be represented in Congress, and full control their local (and state) government, which has been put off for over 200 years. . . . If we want to be full American citizens, with full representation in Congress and full control over our local (and state) government, we should mount the most aggressive campaign possible and push hard for statehood. Otherwise, in half-hearted attempts, we will never create the momentum, excitement and enthusiasm necessary to do the job. Now is the time! We must insist on statehood now! Doing less is unacceptable and doing less will not create the momentum needed. . . With statehood, the residents of the our nation's capital will once again become full citizens of the United States of America."

Finally, this from Vikram Surya Chiruvolu:

DC residents could get a voice on par with all other tax-paying Americans -- a House Representative from their district, and Senators who represent their district and others -- by simply having their votes count as Marylanders for Congressional purposes -- with no other change to existing DC, Maryland, or Federal governance structures whatsoever.

Note this is not statehood for DC, which is the longest-advocated and best-known of the limited set of options we've had. Now I personally am definitely not opposed to city-statehood -- I just don't think the compelling, clear case is here for it yet. However, unlike me, polls have regularly shown most of the rest of the country is strongly against DC Statehood. . .

Practically, how do we do it?. . . In DC Council: For both primaries and general elections, the DC Board of Elections will add to its ballot the candidates for Maryland Senate, and report the results of this vote to the Maryland Board of Elections, should Maryland consent to receive and include them in its final tally, and the date of the DC primary vote for Senate and House seats will be scheduled to coincide with Maryland's. In Maryland legislature: The State of Maryland will, for both the primaries and general election for US Senate, allow residents of the District of Columbia to stand for office and to vote for candidates and tally their votes into the statewide total, just as if the District were a county within Maryland, and, for the US House of Representatives district apportioned to DC, the Maryland Secretary of State will receive and certify the DC election result from the DC Board of Election. In US Congress: Residents of the District of Columbia are hereby granted Congressional representation through the State of Maryland -- with the District allotted one voting seat in the House of Representatives in the next district reapportionment, and representation in the Senate through the two existing Maryland senate seats.

Chiruvolu's proposal is practical from a legal standpoint. In fact, when a group of us filed the 20 Citizens suit some years back, we raised it as a possible solution along with the statehood. Our case was combined by the court with another extraordinarily weak suit that was designed primarily to undermine our efforts. In rejecting the suits, the court's comments were restricted to the colonial establishment case, so our arguments have never been ruled upon.

As we pointed out, the residents of the federal district voted in either Virginia or Maryland for the first ten years and there was no constitutional basis for canceling that right. It's fun, albeit not realistic, to imagine thousands of DC residents arriving at one Bethesda precinct on election day and demanding the right to vote.

The major problem with Chiruvolo's approach is that - like the DC Vote plan and unlike Sam Jordan's approach - it does nothing to reduce our colonial status. Remember that Algeria had representation in the French Assembly even when it was a full fledged colony on the verge of rebellion.


At 9:09 PM, Blogger Vikram Surya said...


Thanks for your feedback on the DC, Represent! webpage. I encourage your readers to check it out.

I'm so glad to know you felt it was legally viable and sensible enough that you were already fighting for it 20 years ago! Would you be able to locate the language of the complaint you filed and post it to the Web? I think it would valuable to see.

A few further thoughts:

* the key concept in my proposal is that DC Residents ought to have Representation as implied in the Constitution -- two Senators from their State and a Congressman from their District -- no more or less than any other American

* we are legally at the mercy of Congress and Maryland as we have no vote in either, and appeal to them to allow the District to be considered part of Maryland for purposes of Congressional representation only

* this needs to be achieved legislatively as the line of Supreme Court rulings from Reilly v. Lamar in 1805 on to the present day has deferred to Congressional authority is 'to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever' concerning the District -- no judge in two centuries has been willing to be seen as doing anything that "legislates from the bench", and counting on that changing now is a poor bet

* Yes We Can get this done now, as we have an incoming President who has also been a professor of Constitutional Law and can grasp the necessity of both legislative remedy and executive leadership on this, and we need to bring this proposal to his attention so we can just get it done

I look forward to your thoughts.

Thanks very much,
Vikram Surya


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