U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the incoming speaker of the House of Representatives, supports District voting rights and is a co-sponsor of legislation that would give Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) a full vote in the House, a spokeswoman said yesterday.A couple of major obstacles might confound her effort. For one, DC doesn't have enough people to merit being its own congressional district unless it is henceforth considered a state (it requires around 650,000 bodies per vote--the latest Census estimate puts DC's total population at 550,000 and shrinking). That the capital gets Eleanor Norton to debate on the floor is a privilege (although you might argue that Wyoming's right to a house member is suspect, since that state has just a hair over a half a million people--150,000 fewer than each state is required to have to obtain extra representatives).
Secondly, the second and third sections of Article I dictate that only states are entitled to Senators and House members. Amendment twenty-three also limits DC's electoral power. Presumably a revamped DC Voting Rights bill would be struck down as unconstitutional, and the District would only get a Congressional vote with the passage of a new amendment repealing the twenty-third.
Consequently, Pelosi is pledging in her first 100 hours to give Norton a sort-of vote:
On Thursday, Pelosi said she would change House rules on the first day of the new Democratic-controlled session in January so that Norton could vote on proposed changes but not final approval of legislation on the House floor. That would be a temporary measure, Norton said.At first glance, it seems like a cheap ploy to solidify Democratic power in Congress. But the bill also grants Utah (the state on the cusp of earning another representative anyway) its fourth House member who'd be, oddly, chosen in a statewide election to accomodate Democrats fearing a redistricting might breakup the lonely blue stronghold of Salt Lake City. What side of the aisle he'd land on is up in the air. Even if the move helped the Democratic Party legislatively, it would aid the GOP executaviely, as Utah would be given an additonal electoral vote, increasing its total to six.
The deprived DC mantra is that the District's residents suffer from taxation without representation, although it's hard to elicit a lot of sympathy when the city has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the nation. Fat Knowledge made a similar point regarding unequal Senatorial representation:
I figured that the Democrats would have a hard time regaining control of the Senate because of the gerrymandering that redrew congressional house districts to give Republicans a better chance of winning. Turns out I was looking at the wrong chamber of [Congress]. ...He was commenting on a NYT' piece that highlighted how Republican Senators come from more sparsely populated states than do Democrats (there are only 254,647 people for each Republican Senator from Wyoming while there are 18,066,074 people for each Democratic Senator from California--over seventy times as many people per Senator in Cali than in Wyoming!) Of course, the 38% of the Golden State's population that voted against Boxer in the 2004 election got hosed. I'm sure much of the state's interior wishes it could comprise it's own state for purposes of political representation, as do the millions of Republicans in other large blue states like New York. Republican Senators, although representing smaller populations, also more accurately reflect the views of those they represent than do Democratic Senators.
The Democrats represent 4.5 million more people but have 11 fewer seats.
I say leave all as is. The last thing we need is a new movement sweeping across the political landscape calling for new states to be created out of existing ones in an effort to garner more Congressional and Electoral representation. Let's not attempt to vivify a reincarnation of Missouri compromise haggling.