- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2005


When Emory Kosh talked about democracy with his fellow soldiers in Iraq, many of them were shocked to hear that the District doesn’t have a vote in Congress.

Soldiers from other states wrote home to their families about District voting rights, he said. Mr. Kosh has since been honorably discharged and is back at home, so yesterday he and two other D.C. veterans from his company took their fight to Congress.

“I want to speak up and ask that Congress take the first step [today] to give my family and me and my fellow D.C. citizens voting representation,” said Mr. Kosh, 22, a graduate of Eastern High School.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, was allowed to vote on the House floor from 1993 until 1995, when Republicans took control of Congress and changed the rules.

Mrs. Norton wants another rules change to restore the vote in the 109th Congress, which convenes today.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams and D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, the city’s lone Republican elected official, also vowed to lobby for the vote.

“Our country and most democracies would find the withdrawal of voting rights intolerable anywhere in the world,” Mrs. Norton said of the 1995 change.

Mr. Kosh said the vote would be less than Iraqi citizens will have Jan. 30. But he sees it as the first step toward full democracy for the District.

Mr. Kosh; Marcus Gray, 22, a graduate of Ballou High School; and Isaac Lewis, 26, a graduate of Dunbar High School, all combat engineers tasked with clearing minefields, requested meetings with House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Mrs. Pelosi met with the trio yesterday, but Mrs. Norton said Mr. Hastert had refused even a meeting with his staff.

Last evening, a Norton spokesman said Mr. Hastert’s office had called, wanting the phone numbers of the veterans. They reached one of them, and a member of Mr. Hastert’s staff said they would try to work something out.

“People in the District of Columbia can be called up, and they can be deployed,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “They deserve a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.”

Chances of gaining the vote are improved because of the soldiers’ stories, Mrs. Pelosi said. “They challenge the conscious of this Congress.”

“It really is one man who determines this,” because Mr. Hastert controls the agenda, Mrs. Norton said. “The House of Representatives needs to honor these young men.”



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