Norton offers trio of D.C. voting rights bills
Facing an uphill battle against a new Republican majority, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has recommenced her effort to win congressional voting rights for the district, offering a trio of bills taking different approaches toward the same broad goal.
The new measures come at a bleak time for the voting rights movement. Norton and her fellow advocates were stymied in the 111th Congress by the determination of gun-rights supporters to attach language gutting the District's gun laws to any voting rights legislation. The vast majority of House Republicans, who now control the chamber, oppose granting a vote to D.C., and the House's new rules package stripped Norton of one of the few privileges she had -- the right to vote in the Committee of the Whole.
Undeterred, Norton said in a statement released Tuesday that her three bills ""lay down a marker of our determination to never relent or retreat until we have obtained each and every right to which we are entitled, whether through the frustration and anguish of the incrementalism that Congress has always forced upon us or with the full and complete set of rights, which, would be achieved through statehood."
Norton's latest measures would grant varying degrees of representation to the District, and none is likely to reach the House floor under the current GOP majority.
The most ambitious of the three -- the New Columbia Admission Act -- would transform the District into New Columbia, the 51st state in the union. Norton notes that the House voted on the issue in 1993 and gave "significant support" to making D.C. a state, though the measure actually failed by a wide margin, 277-153, even under a large Democratic majority. The second bill -- the District of Columbia Equal Representation Act -- would grant seats to the District in both the House and Senate.
The third measure -- the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act -- would simply give D.C. a House vote. Norton has sponsored a bill of the same name in previous Congresses, originally with the co-sponsorship of then-Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), that would add one seat apiece for both the District and Utah. Since Utah is set to gain a House seat anyway based on the results of the 2010 Census, voting rights advocates, including Norton and officials from the group DC Vote, have spoken of finding another state with which to join forces. North Carolina has been the most oft-mentioned candidate, though there has been little substantive discussion yet of pursuing that option.
Norton said in her statement that she deliberately chose not to introduce a bill that would incorporate D.C. into Maryland, an option that some key House Republicans have said they would support.
"Few District residents have indicated support for retrocession approaches, and, in our experience, even fewer Maryland public officials and residents support them," Norton said. "It is inconsistent with the District's pursuit of self-determination to impose upon another jurisdiction without consent from that jurisdiction."
| January 12, 2011; 3:26 PM ET
Categories: Ben Pershing, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Voting Rights
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