What: All Issues : Human Rights & Civil Liberties : Enfranchising the Disenfranchised/Voting Rights : District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (H.R. 1905)/On passage
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District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (H.R. 1905)/On passage
house Roll Call 231     Apr 19, 2007
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This vote was on final passage of a bill to grant full voting rights to residents of the District of Columbia.

The legislation would give the 572,000 residents of Washington, D.C., a voting representative in Congress. Currently, citizens of D.C., who pay federal income taxes and fight in the armed forces, instead have only a delegate to the House of Representatives who doesn't have full voting privileges on the House floor.

In addition to granting a voting representative to the residents of the District of Columbia, the underlying bill would give Utah an additional at-large House seat until 2012, when House seats are to be reapportioned among the states based on the decennial census. (The number of Representatives in the House would permanently increase from 435 to 437.) This was done to make the bill party-neutral. Utah is a reliably conservative state, and the at-large district would likely be filled by a Republican lawmaker, whereas D.C. could be expected to send a Democrat to Congress.

In addition, the bill would also give Utah another vote in the electoral college for the 2008 presidential election.

Utah was chosen to offset the D.C. seat because the state missed getting an additional representative in the last round of redistricting by only a few hundred residents. The bill would expand the number of seats in the House by two, from 435 to 437. The bill would also give Utah an additional vote in the Electoral College for the 2008 election since electors are apportioned on the basis of the number of Senators and Representatives each state has.

Many Republicans questioned the constitutionality of the measure, as Article 1, Section 2 states: "The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by the people of the several states." The District of Columbia is not a state.

"The District was never meant to have the same rights as states," said Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.). Goodlatte also maintained that giving Utah an at-large seat in addition to the state's three congressional districts would allow the state's voters to cast two votes for Congress.

Democrats and some Republican supporters argued that it was high time the more than half million residents of D.C. had the same rights as everyone else, and pointed out that the framers of the Constitution never envisioned that the population of the District would rival that of several states.

"I view this as an issue of race because there are so many of color in this city who are not fully represented," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.).

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who drafted the bill, said the crux of the issue was not a constitutional one. Davis said the debate was not about "what Congress can do" but instead "about what Congress is willing to do."

In the end, 22 Republicans joined with all but six Democrats in voting to pass the measure. Thus, by a final vote of 241 to 177, the House passed a bill giving citizens of D.C. a full voting Representative in the House.

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