- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Advocates who want the District to have a voting member of Congress were on Capitol Hill on Monday to plead their case.

D.C. residents and members of the advocacy group DC Vote visited members’ offices to ask for their support. The District has about 600,000 residents, but they are represented by a delegate who doesn’t have a vote on the floor in Congress.

“Most people don’t know this problem exists,” DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka told the group of about 50 participants wearing black T-shirts with “I Am DC” in red letters.

The District’s delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who would get to vote if the bill passes, told the group that met in a House office building room that she appreciated its persistence.

“Thank you, DC Vote, for keeping the pressure on,” she said before the group dispersed to the offices.

In February, the Senate passed a bill granting the District a vote, but senators added a gun amendment that would repeal strict gun-registration requirements in the city and restrictions on semiautomatic weapons. The sponsor of the amendment, Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, has said he proposed the amendment because the District hasn’t gone far enough to comply with the Supreme Court, which last year struck down the city’s 32-year-old ban on handguns. City officials insist their rules are now in compliance.

The bill has not yet been voted on in the House, and DC Vote is urging the chamber to pass it without the gun amendment.

“We’re really hoping that we can get a clean bill,” said Elissa Froman, who was leading a group of four other women meeting with congressional staff members.

The group members visited the offices of about 75 House Democrats who represent more conservative districts and for whom gun rights is an important issue. They urged staff members not to entangle the gun issue with the bill, which would also give another voting member to Republican-leaning Utah, which narrowly missed out on another representative after the last census.

Sarah Livingston, a 17-year D.C. resident, told one staff member at the office of Rep. John M. Spratt Jr., South Carolina Democrat, that D.C. residents deserved representation.

“We just have so much to offer,” she said. “We are a city of citizens who are paying attention.”

After the meeting, Ms. Livingston said she felt encouraged, even though the group did not get as warm a reception at every office it visited.

“It’s catching on,” Ms. Livingston said. “It’s doable.”

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