DC: Voting & Guns

While I’d support an amendment to the Constitution giving the District of Columbia a vote in the House,  the Congress prefers to accomplish that goal in a faster but unconstitutional way– by just passing a law.

I’m no legal scholar, but I don’t see how they can ignore the plain language of Article 1, Section 2 of our basic law:   “The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.”

Democratic leaders seem to think this can be negated by citing Article 1, Section 5:   “Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members…”  Does that justification seem even remotely plausible?  I think not.  (If it is, the same argument could be used to give representation to other non-states, like  Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, etc.)

And the Republicans?  They’ll accept the deal if the District’s gun laws are gutted!  (“D.C. Weighs Price of Securing Vote in Congress”; The Post, March 21st).  What a travesty, to say in effect:  we’ll go along with violating Article 1 if you accept our view of Amendment 2 (the right to bear arms).  Neither side seems to have any respect for the Constitution itself.

When and if this passes (with or without the gun provision) I hope and expect that the Supreme Court will strike it down.  And then perhaps we can do the job right:  support a constitutional amendment giving DC a vote in Congress.  While the push to make the District a state failed, I think that giving them one House seat would be widely seen as only fair.

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Note: I originally sent the above (in a slightly different form) as a letter to the Washington Post, a paper which doesn’t seem to worry about constitutional niceties.  In any event they didn’t publish my letter (not the first time that has happened).
Today I see in that same newspaper that:
Justice Department lawyers concluded in an unpublished opinion earlier this year that the historic D.C. voting rights bill pending in Congress is unconstitutional, according to sources briefed on the issue. But Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who supports the measure, ordered up a second opinion from other lawyers in his department and determined that the legislation would pass muster.
I hope for a 9-0 decision– not constitutional– on this if it is enacted into law and a challenge goes up to the Supreme Court.

6 Responses to “DC: Voting & Guns”

  1. citizenw Says:

    The District Clause itself is at the root of the problem. Starr calls it Majestic” and “Plenary” . I read that as “Monarchical” and “Tyrannical”. If you would, just read, compare and consider both the Declaratory Act of 1766 and the District Clause. In each, a national legislature attempts to arrogate to itself unwarranted Absolute Power, “in all cases whatsoever”, over an unrepresented minority of the national population. This is, in both cases, inconsistent with the fundamental bedrock principle of participatory (lower case democratic or republican) government, known as “Consent of the Governed”.

    • pjoenotes Says:

      Good point. Of course when the Constitution was written the new seat of gov’t didn’t exist, was still to be created– so we might forgive the founders for not thinking too much about the future population of the capital, over whom the Congress would be ruling in such an arbitrary way.

  2. citizenw Says:

    “All of this ink and time being spent on giving the residents of the District of Columbia a ‘full voting representative’ in the House of Representatives. What exactly have the residents of the District of Columbia been denied as a result of not having such a representative?”

    Simple answer: They have been denied their inalienable (innate, inherent, intrinsic) rights as citizens of this nation to participate equally in this participatory form of government which all other citizens enjoy. They are Governed Without Consent. They seek Equality, Nothing More, and will settle for Equality, Nothing Less.

    They are denied recognition and respect for their inalienable right (which cannot be sold, traded, or taken away, an arbitrary, anachronistic, and artificial provision of the Constitution notwithstanding) to Consent to the laws under which we all must live, to be heard in the national consensus which we develop via our national legislature.

    Denying DC the opportunity to either grant or withold Consent over the laws under which we all must live (as exercised by all other citizens in the fifty states) leaves the power exerted by Congress over the District both illegitimate and tyrannical. Recall that our Constitution, as originally written, denied these same fundamental rights to blacks and women, too. We have corrected that over time as we strive for “a more perfect Union.” The task is not yet complete.

  3. Brendan Ward Says:

    Hello Cousin!!! hope all is well. Wonderful blog. Insightful and impressive writing for a bogman!!!!!

    Holder is scary!!!

  4. pjoenotes Says:

    Hi Brendan,
    I’m starting a new set of postings on the theme of “Coming to America”, which might be of some interest to your mom.
    — PJ

  5. citizenw Says:

    Unfortunately Americans “support” voting rights, but won’t put any effort into actually making it happen. We have a piecemeal approach to voting rights in our Constitution (or rather, your Constitution, since DC has been denied participation in changes since 1801 – – that’d be amendments 12-27). To America’s shame (if most Americans weren’t so shameless) we started out around 1770 saying “All men are created equal”, and but held slaves, and immediately started counting non-whites as 3/5ths. It took 50 years to correct that (Missouri Compromise, 1820). It took 50 more years and a bitter civil war to allow black men to be free and, if reluctantly, to vote (1870). It took another 50 years and who knows how many bedroom skirmishes to allow women to vote (1920). And, it took another 50 years to allow 18-20 year olds to vote (1970). I guess “All men are created equal” doesn’t imply “all men are TREATED equal”.

    The history of voting rights in this country is nothing to be proud of. We need an overarching voting amendment to explicitly protect voting rights for ALL, so that our government can truly become a government of the people, by the people, for the people (ALL the people!). We need to replace the patchwork voting rights amendments with something that addresses the entire issue.

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