- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 25, 2003

All nine Democratic presidential hopefuls support voting rights for the District, but each has his own idea of how to enfranchise the populace in Congress.

Although some support the District’s right to a vote on the House floor, some stop short of backing statehood for the nation’s capital. And despite their adamant support for D.C. independence, only four will participate in Jan. 15 primary.

“As president, I will work closely with Mayor Anthony Williams and the people of the District to achieve full voting rights and real home rule,” said Wesley Clark at an event in the city earlier this month.

He stopped his comments at a vote for Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, District Democrat. He mentioned no bills or maneuvers to gain support.

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut have been steadfast supporters of voting rights for nearly two decades on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Lieberman introduced a bill in 2002 to give the city a vote in the House, and Mr. Gephardt has introduced and supported bills to do the same. He was a major contributor to a bill that passed in the mid 1990s which gave Mrs. Norton a vote, until the Republican-led Congress rescinded the bill.

Front-runner Howard Dean, the Rev. Al Sharpton, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich all support voting rights, with Mr. Kucinich the most vocal of the three.

“President Bush is more intent on making Iraq the 51st state than the District of Columbia,” he has said at speeches in the city. “I would like to see democracy in the capital of the world’s oldest democracy while we are seeking democracy in Iraq.”

Mr. Sharpton has added the issue to his platform in whatever form it takes.

“I’m running for president to provide voting rights or statehood for the nearly 600,000 disenfranchised residents living in Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital,” Mr. Sharpton said.

A chief motivation behind the District’s proposal to move up its Democratic presidential primary to the first in the country, Jan. 13, was to bring more attention to the congressional disenfranchisement of its half-million residents.

Historically, D.C. voting rights was a GOP platform up until the late 1974 when a GOP-led Congress and White House under President Nixon gave the city limited home rule after originally advocating for statehood. Before that, one Republican of note was the late Connecticut Sen. Prescott Bush, grandfather of President Bush.

Nelson Reminsnyder, a former chief researcher for the House subcommittee on the District, unearthed legislation from 1961 drafted and introduced on the Senate floor by Mr. Bush to give the city two senators and a voting member of Congress. Neither of the two Bush administrations have supported any enfranchisement.

But some Republicans are coming around.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, and chairman of the House Government Reform Committee said this summer, “It’s hard to make a straight-faced argument that the capital of the free world shouldn’t have a vote in Congress. It ought to happen.”

The capital city has been the only jurisdiction in the country to pay federal taxes without voting representation in Congress for 200 years. Some say the disenfranchisement is a matter of Constitutional law, while others have said the “founding fathers” merely overlooked the placing of an exemption for the city in the nation’s legal road map.


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