The Best Solution To The D.C. Situation I’ve Seen

WSJ.com – A Senator from D.C.?
The amendment proposed in this article is the best solution I’ve seen to the D.C. “taxation without representation” issue. It’s consistent with history — Virginia got the land back that it ceded to create D.C. in the first place — meaning that the existing land is from Maryland.

If Maryland went along with it they would pick up a seat in the House and the people that resided in D.C. would be residents of a real state, Maryland, thus solving their representation problem.

Or we could keep the status quo, but D.C. should not be a state since it’s the seat of the federal government.

The District of Columbia held the first-in-the-nation presidential primary election yesterday. Well, sort of. It’s non-binding, and few showed up for an election that makes no difference. The election’s real purpose is to protest the fact that, along with children and felons, D.C. residents don’t get to vote for members of Congress.

When the Founding Fathers called for the establishment of a federal district to serve as the capital, they were concerned with making sure that the federal government would not be subject to the laws of any state and thus give that state undue influence. It’s unlikely they even considered the problem of congressional representation for the district’s citizens.

At first, there was no reason why they should have. After the District of Columbia was created in 1790, the residents continued to vote for members of Congress as though they were still residents of Maryland and Virginia. No one objected. Indeed, one Maryland representative during that period lived in Georgetown. (Virginia’s portion of the district was ceded back to the state in 1846.)

But when Congress moved to the new capital in 1800, it did what politicians always try to do: acquire power. The Organic Acts of 1801 stripped the residents of the district of the right to vote for members of Congress and imposed a local government. In 1878, largely for racist reasons, Congress stripped the district of any rights even to self-government. The district would not elect a mayor and city council again until 1975.

[….]

In 1978, a heavily Democratic Congress passed an amendment to the Constitution that would have given the district the same Congressional representation it would have had if it were a state, including two senators. The Amendment had a time limit of seven years, however, and in 1985 the amendment died when only 16 states had ratified it out of the 38 required. It is not hard to see why most states declined to ratify. The amendment would have created a situation every bit as unfair as that which it sought to remedy. Washington is a city and bears no resemblance to a state. Even tiny Rhode Island has a land area 18 times that of D.C. Worse, why should Washington, only the 23rd-largest city, have two senators of its very own, while, say, Nashville, the 24th, has to share its senators with Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga and its own suburbs?

Advocates of treating D.C. like a state point out that some states have smaller populations. Actually, according to Census Bureau 2002 estimates, only Wyoming has a smaller population than D.C., which, like most large eastern cities, has been losing population to its suburbs for decades. Senators representing the District of Columbia would in a very real sense be Senators representing the federal government, an idea that would have horrified the Founding Fathers.

[….]

Instead, the following constitutional amendment might be the answer:

Amendment XXVIII

Section I. The Twenty-third article of Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section II. For purposes of voting in federal elections and apportionment only, citizens of the District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall be regarded as being and counted as citizens of the state that ceded the land for such purpose, provided the Legislature of that state so agrees by ratifying this Amendment.

Section III. Congress shall have the power to enforce this amendment with appropriate legislation.

UPDATE: Chris Lawrence, henceforth known as the malcontent and cynic of the blogosphere, has brought politics into my otherwise pure analysis of the D.C. issue.

That doesn’t mean he’s wrong, just a cynic. If this problem were actually solved the Democrats would lose an issue to whine about — you know, scream about disenfranchisement and the like — and his suggestion about letting D.C. vote for Maryland Senators is something I took for granted, though it wouldn’t be guaranteed.

Another downside of settling this issue is the entertainment value of the District’s license plates, which read “Taxation Without Representation”. It’s worth keeping the issue alive for that reason alone.

I don’t see how leaving the three electoral votes in place could be justified. D.C. residents would be residents of Maryland as well and would get to fully participate in their elections.

Chris brings up another issue that had occurred to me in another context: the equal suffrage of the States in the Senate. It’s the one thing in the Constitution that can’t be changed, not even by amendment.

The Democrats introduced an amendment in the 1970’s, as pointed out in the article above, that would have given D.C. two Senators and one Congressman without making D.C. a State. It seems to me that this would compromise the equal suffrage of the States since D.C. wouldn’t have been made into a State by that amendment. A non-State entity would have had Senators.

It’s a non-issue since only sixteen States even bothered to ratify it, but interesting nonetheless. The idea of an unconstitutional amendment is interesting.

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