- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2008

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, emboldened by the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, predicts Congress will approve by next year long-sought D.C. voting rights legislation.

“The election has made it all but inevitable,” Mrs. Norton said Thursday.

Mrs. Norton, a Democrat, said at a Veterans Day rally on Tuesday that she will present the 111th Congress with the Voting Rights Act of 2009, which would grant the District a full vote in the House.

The last bill she introduced failed last year to get the needed 60 votes in the Senate after passing the House. Mrs. Norton said her new bill will be substantially similar to the old one.

Six Democratic Senators will replace Republicans who opposed that bill in the next Senate, Mrs. Norton said. Democrats even could have a filibuster-proof 60 votes, depending on a few races that remain undecided.

The victory of Mr. Obama, an Illinois Democratic senator, has an “unprecedented and historic meaning for the American people, but perhaps for none as much as for the residents of the nation’s capital,” Mrs. Norton said.

Mr. Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Delaware Democratic senator, both supported the voting rights bill last year. Mrs. Norton said the president-elect has told her personally that he would sign a voting rights bill if it reached his desk.

“Those who live in our nation’s capital pay taxes like other Americans and serve bravely in the armed forces like other Americans. Yet they are not afforded a vote in Congress,” Mr. Obama said last year. “The right to vote belongs to every American, regardless of race, creed, gender or geography.”

“President Barack Obama´s first year in office is the first time while I have served the District that we have a fair chance to get the House vote,” Mrs. Norton said.

The Democrats’ expanded majorities in the House and Senate also boost prospects for the bill. Republicans have traditionally opposed D.C. voting rights, citing constitutional concerns as well as the reality that the District will be a reliably Democratic seat. However, Republican support for D.C. voting rights has grown in recent years.

Mrs. Norton estimates that 65 senators favor the bill, which would give it the edge it needs to pass.

“We can make 2009 the year of the clean sweep for democracy in hometown D.C. — for D.C. voting rights and full self-government, too, after centuries of unceasing and hard work,” Mrs. Norton said.

She told the veterans’ rally she will dedicate the Voting Rights Act to the first unknown soldier from the American Revolution - who was thought to be from the D.C. area - and to Army National Guard Spc. Darryl T. Dent, 21, a graduate of Roosevelt High School and the first D.C. resident to die in the Iraq war.

“Our first residents fought in the War for Independence on the promise of the vote for all American citizens,” Mrs. Norton said. “Darryl Dent died assuring the vote for Iraqi citizens, a right he did not live to see for himself.”

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