Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Voting Rights

Long, long ago there was a young country writing a Constitution. At the time there was little communication, and it took a day to get to Mt. Vernon from the District of Columbia. Under those circumstances, it appeared that the capitol area should be specially designated as a district while the other areas were granted statehood, so that undue influence wouldn't be conferred by the immediate environs of the capitol and government. Residents of D.C. were denied the vote by our original U.S. Constitution, as were women and descendants of slaves.

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to debate giving the District of Columbia a voting member of the U.S. House of Representatives next week (ed.note; written Feb. 16). Delegate Eleanor Homes Norton (D-DC) has told reporters that she believes the votes are there to pass the legislation. The Obama fever gripping the Congress during President Barack Obama's 'honeymoon' period may be enough to propel the bill to passage.

Obama's recent opponent, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has declared he believes such legislation would be unconstitutional because the District of Columbia is not a state. Residents of the District gained the Presidential vote with passage of the 23rd Amendment however lack voting representation in Congress.

For most of us today the lack of a vote would be a cause of real consternation. For residents of D.C. it is an anachronistic denial of basic citizens' rights. It has deteriorated into a right wing issue to deny the vote to D.C. - because the residents are overwhelmingly Democratic in affiliation.

This week the vote for citizens residing in D.C. comes again to a vote in Congress. Fortunately, the party of Nope is out of control, in this sense in a good way. This would seem like good time to get beyond the errors of the writers of the original Constitution, and confer the rights of citizenship on D.C. residents. Incidentally, even Ken Starr admits that the Constitution is invalid as an excuse for denying voting rights to D.C.

The right wing has used redistricting, that trammeled on long established traditions, to deny rights to citizens in my home state of Texas. This last refuge of scoundrels will be revived in the D.C. citizenship vote, under the guise of preserving the Constitution. As we have observed all too closely over the past eight years, the Constitution is of absolutely no concern to wingers when it gets in the way of their ideology. The previous occupier of the White House ignored it to make war without justification, and in whittling away at individual rights, the rule of law and the role of the President, which is to execute the laws. To use the Constitution as a basis to keep a longstanding right to the vote from this country's citizens is a new height of hypocrisy.

The vote is a basic right. This Congress should extend that right to the District of Columbia.

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