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Is Statehood the Answer? Posted:01.08.03
A Washington, D.C. high school freshman ponders the question of D.C. statehood.
By Alexandra, ninth grader at National Cathedral School
On Election Day, voters across the United States exercised their right to choose men and women to go to Congress and represent their interests. Those elected representatives just began a new two-year session in Congress. Yet in the nation's capital, citizens could not go to the polls for elections on a national level. Why? Quite simply, because Washington, D.C. is not a state and has no voting rights.
While its residents can elect a mayor and other local representatives, this city of 500,000-- larger than that of Wyoming--does not have senators or voting representation in the House (save for delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Shadow Senator Paul Strauss who both have limited powers).
The battle over D.C.'s voting rights dates back to the founding of our nation. D.C. was carved out of Maryland and Virginia in 1791, and at first its residents could vote in either Maryland's or Virginia's congressional elections. At the time, D.C. was not the U.S. capital.
Yet after the Compromise of 1790 and an agreement between northern and southern states to not grant voting rights to the U.S. capital, D.C. residents were not able to vote. Residents, including Revolutionary War veterans, realized the unfairness of this situation and began as early as 1803 to introduce bills in Congress to rectify it.
In 1961, Congress passed the Twenty-Third Amendment, which granted District residents the right to vote in presidential elections.
The question of D.C.'s representation in Congress is a more difficult one. Are District residents indeed being denied the equal protection granted by the Fourteenth Amendment because they cannot elect their own senators and voting representatives?
Article I of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that "the House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states," and that "the Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each state."
Clearly, D.C. is not a state, but a city. It is scarcely the equal of California or New York but still larger than the average size of a congressional district.
While D.C. residents, as citizens, deserve equal protection and voting rights, many people think it would be blatantly unfair to residents of large states such as California or Texas to give D.C. equal representation in the Senate.
But there is a solution. Legislators should take a lesson from Virginia. As was done in 1846, today D.C. residents should demand retrocession of the original Maryland portion of the District, giving D.C. citizens a voice in national-level elections.
Such a resolution would provide representation without diluting the rights of larger "real" states in Congress.
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