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Posted at 11:28 AM ET, 04/26/2010

D.C.'s constitutional reality

By editors

By Mike Henry
College Park

Before people get too worked up over the demise of the D.C. voting rights bill [Metro, April 21], they should realize that trying to grant the District a vote in the House by congressional fiat is probably unconstitutional.

Article 1, Section 2, of the Constitution is clear: “The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states .....” And much as it might like, Congress cannot will statehood for the District under the Constitution. Article 1, Section 8, calls for an entity of no more than 10 miles square to “become the Seat of the Government of the United States.” And the 23rd Amendment refers to the District again as “the seat of government,” not as a state. Finally when the Supreme Court upheld the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the court believed it necessary to differentiate the District’s status when it protected the people of “any American state, territory, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.”

Clearly, under the Constitution, the District is not a state and therefore cannot be granted a vote in the House of Representatives.

By editors  | April 26, 2010; 11:28 AM ET
Categories:  D.C., D.C. politics, DC Vote  
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Congress has subdivided the District before, in retroceding Arlington County & Alexandria back to Virginia. What would the constitutional difference be between that and carving out a smaller federal enclave and designating the rest of the District as a territory, which then might petition for statehood? I'm really interested in answers to this question.

Posted by: TheAMT | April 26, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Retroceding is the only viable option. Just as before, the territory is returned to the orignial state, a new territory is not created. Else why not make Arlington and Alexandria a separate state? This really isn't about voting rights for DC. The residents are pawns in a political game as one party uses them to gain additional power. If voting rights for the residents was the real goal retroceding could have been done long ago.

Posted by: carlmi3 | April 27, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Retroceding is a great idea. Give what is left of the District back to Maryland. Retroceding means returning, not creating new. If this was about voting rights for DC and not about political power plays the District would be in Maryland and everybody would be voting. It is about increasing power for one party so this will be dragged out as long as possible. The Democratic Party wants 3 votes and until it gets them the District can whistle in the dark.

Posted by: carlmi3 | April 27, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Sorry about the double post, the website said the first wasn't posted.

Posted by: carlmi3 | April 27, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Man, I HATE when people bring up this BS argument. I will concede that everything you are saying is true as far as what the wording currently says. However: you speak of this topic as if it were simply about geography and zoning, and not actually about the PEOPLE therein. I am a CITIZEN of the United States. My right to representation AS A CITIZEN is fundamental and predates the constitution's wording. So I would posit that in fact, the passage you cite is what is unconstitutional about this whole ordeal because it LIMITS MY RIGHTS in a way that it does not for the citizens of other geographic areas of this country. It is *more* unconstitutional to DENY my rights to direct representation than it is to grant a seat in congress to a "non-state."

And while I'm at it, let me point out that neither Virginia nor Pennsylvania are "states" either, and they have plenty of congressional power.

Posted by: jenms | April 30, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

thank goodness you're not being paid for this trenchant, insightful analysis.

not to be a dick (which i guess it's too late—i clearly am already), but this isn't "adding any value" to this discussion. this has been brought up many many times before. do you have anything unique to bring to the voting rights discussion?

Posted by: IMGoph | May 1, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

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