Nation's Capital One Step Closer to Voting Rights

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 16, 2006 | Go to article overview

Nation's Capital One Step Closer to Voting Rights


Byline: Adrienne T. Washington, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

"Those who cry for complete power have forgotten the words of [abolitionist] Frederick Douglass, who said, 'We must capture what we can, when we can, and move on,'" civil rights stalwart Lawrence Guyot says.

Douglass, Mr. Guyot noted yesterday, was referring to those who refused to work for passage of the 15th Amendment because it did not include suffrage for women.

"Power provides for power," Mr. Guyot said. "It is idiotic to wish for the unworkable when acquisition of real power is so near."

Here's to that half-filled glass.

For decades, the heavily taxed but disenfranchised residents of the District have lobbied, picketed, blocked streets and gone to jail to gain their fundamental rights as American citizens a voting representative in the U.S. Congress.

On Friday, more than 500,000 people who live in the capital of the free world came one step closer to democracy when a bipartisan voting-rights bill was introduced by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who is the District's nonvoting member of Congress.

The D.C. Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act bravely broached by Mr. Davis, who has received opposition from his own party, would give the District one vote in the House and an additional seat to Utah. The political trade-off supposedly means the Democrat-leaning representative from the District would be offset by a presumably Republican-leaning, at-large representative from Utah.

Voting rights groups, such as D.C. Vote, lauded the bill, calling it "the brink of a major voting-rights victory." Ilir Zherka, executive director of D.C. Vote, called on District voters to "rise up" and lobby fellow Americans for passage of the measure.

"We are the closest we have ever been to voting representation in Congress, and D.C. residents should be shouting from the rooftops and engaging friends across the country to make this critical bill a law," Mr. Zherka said.

Others are shouting, though not in celebration.

They are looking at a half-empty glass.

The Stand Up for Democracy in D.C. Coalition yesterday called for the withdrawal of the Davis-Norton "unequal representation bill." The modified and renegotiated legislation gives the District "less-than-full representation in Congress" because it does not include two senators as well, spokeswoman Anise Jenkins said.

"Despite its title, this bill does not correct the lack of basic democratic rights in the nation's capital. We call on Congress to support legislation that will make a real change and call on our own elected officials and the civil rights organizations that have supported this bill not to give up on attaining full democracy and equality for the people of Washington, D.C.," Ms. Jenkins said. "We cannot buy into our own oppression."

Hey, I definitely support "all power to the people. …

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