Why should Georgetown students care that Washington, D.C. citizens do not have full representation in Congress? Consider this: Of all the capitals in our world’s democracies, only Washington, D.C. is denied voting representation.
As a D.C. citizen, I experience this firsthand. We pay federal taxes yet are not allowed to vote on laws passed in Congress that directly impact our lives. Instead, we have two shadow senators who have no real voting power. The District’s only voice in Congress is a non-voting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D – D.C.), who serves in the House of Representatives but is not permitted to vote on the House floor. These people may represent the interests and views of citizens, but in reality their power consists of nothing more than speaking on our behalf.
As a federal district and not a state, D.C. is denied representation. While this reasoning is derived from the Constitution, it is inexcusable that the entire D.C. population of around 700,000 does not have federal voting rights. This population is larger than that of both Vermont and Wyoming, two states that have full representation in Congress. If they have full representation shouldn’t D.C. have the same? Moreover, D.C. residents pay all required federal taxes. Do they not deserve the same representation afforded to nearly every other district in the country?
Congress also has direct control over D.C.’s budget and can override any law that D.C. citizens try to enact. In 2015, D.C. citizens voted for the legalization of marijuana for personal use. Legalization met with 64 percent support among D.C. citizens, yet due to disagreements from Republicans in Congress, this law was initially not passed. Only after formal review and amendment was it passed — even then, the law was not what D.C. citizens had voted for. The House of Representatives blocked the D.C. Council from using appropriated funds for taxing and regulating marijuana, a clause that was present in the original bill.
In all other states in the U.S., Congress does not have a say over state referendums or laws. However, in the District, Congress was able to change an initiative in an attempt to make the use of marijuana in D.C. more difficult — a move that clearly went against the explicit wishes of those who supported the original statute.
One would think that Congress has better things to do than worry about D.C.’s marijuana laws, yet this conflict is just one example of how D.C. citizens do not have total control over any local issue.
This issue should matter to D.C. students; as residents, they, along with other D.C. citizens, deserve a say in government just as much as those who live in any of the other states. Many D.C. residents believe the best way to achieve independence, and the right to representation, is by being granted statehood. Statehood may at first seem unnecessary, because of its small location squished between Maryland and Virginia and its purpose of being the seat of the federal government.
If you are not a D.C. citizen, it is easy to believe that this issue does not impact you personally. However, Georgetown students must pay attention to this debate, as many will go on to work and live in D.C. after graduation. If we can change this now, future citizens of D.C., including Georgetown students, will be able to secure the right for true representation.
D.C. lacked an actual local government until 1970, yet even now it still lacks proper representation. It should be an imperative, not just for actual D.C. residents, but also for Georgetown students to become part of a movement that will allow the District to receive the necessary right to representation.
Maddy Taub is a junior in the College. She is a member of Georgetown Students for D.C. Statehood.