It's Not Too Late for Amendment 28

U.S. Constitution
U.S. Constitution

As this year's Election Day approaches and as an almost lifetime Washingtonian I am again reminded of DC citizens' lack of voting representatives in Congress. To remedy this injustice we need a constitutional amendment -- the 28th Amendment. The nation as a whole must act to correct this deprivation of democracy. The right to vote for representatives in Congress is fundamental to every American, not just citizens of the 50 states. This right has been denied in the nation's capital since the passage of the D.C. Organic Act of 1801.

In the past, citizens of the 50 states have recognized that it is unconstitutional to deprive D.C. citizens of the right to vote. Until 1961 D.C. citizens had no right to vote for President. U.S. citizens recognized this injustice and passed the 23rd Amendment, allowing D.C. citizens the right to vote for President. Unfortunately, this recognition of Constitutional rights was only partial. We need a 28thAmendment to rectify this unfairness which Hawaii recognized in 2013 when it passed a Resolution (HCR 106) "Urging the U.S. Congress to Grant Full Voting Rights for Residents of D.C."

To obtain the right to vote for voting members of the Congress, we should follow the process used for the passage of the 21stAmendment. This is the only constitutional amendment that not only repeals another amendment, but also was ratified by state conventions not state legislatures. The reason to pursue state conventions is that it would best ensure that ordinary citizens have a voice in the process and also because it would allow ordinary citizens in some states to put a question about calling for a convention on the state-wide ballot (Florida is one such state).

The amendment process would be better removed as much as possible from politicians' hands since the ratification of a 28thAmendment would potentially land three more Democratic votes in Congress. The party affiliation of the voting members should not be allowed to cloud the critical issue here: citizens of the United States are being denied the right to vote for voting members of the Congress; they are being taxed without representation, the rallying cry for the American Revolution that is taught to all our schoolchildren.

Some might argue that under Article I of the Constitution (section 7, subsection 17), D.C. is under the exclusive legislation of Congress and giving D.C. citizens the right to vote for voting members of Congress would compromise that legislation. This is simply false. The 28th Amendment would not impinge on the Article I language as Congress could still vote to overrule a D.C. law. However, with passage of the amendment there would at least be fully voting D.C. representatives in Congress who could argue for their local legislation and against changes imposed by Congress (Congress can use riders to force legislative measures on D.C.).

Those in opposition to a constitutional amendment argue there are too many Democrats in D.C., D.C. was never meant to be a state, that D.C. is only a city. None of these objections override the fundamental problem: taxpaying American citizens in D.C. currently lack full political representation in Congress. I am not suggesting statehood, only that D.C. have the right guaranteed to other U.S. citizens by the Constitution to vote for not just the President, but also for fully voting members of Congress. In Federalist No. 52 James Madison stated, "The definition of the right of suffrage is very justly regarded as a fundamental article of a republican government. It was incumbent on the convention, therefore to define and establish this right in the Constitution." The Declaration of Independence emphasizes the fundamental injustice of taxation without consent and representation. D.C. residents are tired of 15 years of the mantra "Taxation Without Representation," the default slogan on D.C. license plates.

Voting members of Congress from D.C. should be in the Congress shaping legislation and policy to reflect the best interests of D.C. residents and others. This is true democracy, a democracy our framers intended. They did not know the District would become a year-round city of over 650,000 residents, and that almost 430,000 would be eligible voters who are essentially (save a non-voting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton) unrepresented in the Legislative branch.

The framers of our Constitution were smart enough to allow for amendments even though amending is difficult and rare. The 21stamendment once again permitted legal libations; the 28th should provide D.C. voters a truly represented voice. Non-residents and residents of D.C. alike, it is not too late for Amendment 28.

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