- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2003

One-year-old Eli Smulson probably wasn’t making a political statement as he scribbled with a red marker over a sign reading “It’s Time. www.dcvote.org.”

But the other, slightly older children he was with yesterday at Lafayette Square did have a political message. They marched near the White House with signs in a call to get the District voting representation in Congress.

The group of 5- to-12-year-olds and their parents held a tea party, recalling the Dec. 16, 1773, action of American Colonists who dumped loads of tea from English ships into Boston Harbor in protest of British taxing policies.

“We’re having a protest because Washington, D.C., needs two senators and we are getting two senators,” said Noura Jaber, 8. “And the tea is just for breaks.”

The boys and girls have spent two weeks in D.C. Young Suffragists Camp, learning things such as how women won the right to vote, and meeting with D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting member of Congress, and Sen. Jim Jeffords, Vermont independent.

“Well, we need someone to represent us because if we don’t have a senator, a state gets to decide our laws,” Noura said. “And that’s just not fair.”

In 1960 Congress passed a constitutional amendment giving D.C. residents the right to vote for the president and vice president. The next decade, residents were permitted a nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives.

The children made protest banners and sashes, and received an explanation from D.C. Vote communications director Kevin Kiger of how the residents of the nation’s capital are denied some democratic rights.

“We watched a video last week,” Mr. Kiger said. “They had some questions that adults don’t even think of.”

Mr. Kiger said it is the first time his organization has worked with such young children. He said the youngsters have taken away a better understanding of democracy.

“If they don’t understand the exact details now, they will start asking themselves questions as years go by,” he said.

Zoe Malhotra, 6, said she has learned a lot in the past couple of weeks. She said she will continue singing the song she learned, “Do You Have a Senator?” and will pass the lyrics on to some of her classmates.

“That’s because when we don’t have a senator, other people would be the boss of us,” Zoe said.

Zoe’s mother, Jane Varner Malhotra, was one of a few Janney Elementary School mothers who came up with the idea of teaching their children about the lack of voting rights for D.C. residents. She said the children have learned that to make a change, they need to have their voices heard.

“I’ve been amazed at how much they’ve learned,” she said. “We had low expectations. They’re not settled with the adult language and the politics. They just say, ‘It’s just not fair.’”

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