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Washington, D.C. City council has chance to make D.C. a "beacon of democracy"

by Rob Richie // Published June 13, 2009
For years we have been strong supporters of giving the citizens of our nation's capital equal voting rights with citizens living in our states. Without a federal constitutional right to vote, however, the courts have rejected providing that equality. Politically, a constitutional amendment was passed to give the District a vote for president (although at the time its population warranted more than the three electoral votes it earned), but an amendment proposal to establish Washington, D.C. as a state failed to win passage in sufficient states in the late 1970s and early 1980s. More recently, DC Vote has made significant headway with a statute to provide D.C. voters at least with a voting member in the U.S. House, but it currently is stalled in Congress despite having majority support for passage.

FairVote believes that the District can only strengthen its case for fair representation in Congress through taking actions to make the District a "beacon of democracy." I provided testimony to the city council in January 2009 making this argument, with a number of specific suggestions, and my colleague Adam Fogel published a strong commentary on this theme in the Washington Post in April.

Today's Washington Post brings the encouraging news that D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (Ward 3) is introducing legislation that would increase access to voting and the security and transparency of voting equipment in the state. To be introduced on June 16, we anticipate the legislation will incorporate Election Day registration, heightened citizen oversight of voting equipment and signature proposals of FairVote such as advance voter registration for 16-year-olds and 17-year-old  primary voting.