- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Activists holding signs that read “I Demand the Vote” gathered yesterday on Capitol Hill to drum up support ahead of a key Senate vote on a bill that would give the District a full vote in Congress.

Lawmakers are expected to decide today whether the bill, which also would give Utah another House seat, should advance to the Senate floor for debate and a later vote. It is not clear whether advocates have the 60 votes needed to overcome an attempt by Republican leaders to block the measure.

“Not since segregation has the Senate blocked a voting rights bill, and this is a voting rights bill,” Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, told about 50 people who attended a press conference yesterday in front of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Among those joining Mr. Fenty at the rally were former Rep. Jack Kemp, New York Republican; Ilir Zherka, head of the advocacy group DC Vote; and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s nonvoting House member. Mrs. Norton is allowed to vote only in House committees.

Mr. Kemp urged his fellow Republicans to “vote your conscience. Vote the American way. Get on the right side of history.”

Participants then broke off into groups to visit various Senate offices, where they lobbied lawmakers to support the measure.

D.C. voting rights advocates call the issue the most important civil rights struggle of the day.

Opponents of the measure argue that the Constitution expressly limits House representation to states and that the District is not a state.

Utah was added to the bill in hopes of winning more support. Conservative Utah is expected to elect a Republican to the new seat, while D.C. voters would almost certainly choose a Democrat.

Utah missed a fourth House seat by just 857 persons in 2000, and officials have argued that the government should have counted the more than 11,000 Mormon missionaries living overseas.

“We pay our taxes,” Northeast resident Mike Wallace, 55, said Sunday. “We are citizens of the United States, so we ought to have a vote. I’m a legally registered voter. I’m a discharged veteran of the Vietnam War. I was born and raised here.”

Staff writer Arlo Wagner contributed to this article.

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