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Davis Offers D.C. Voting Bill Again

City officials and voting rights advocates will join House Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) this afternoon when he announces the reintroduction of his bill to create a full-fledged House seat for the District of Columbia.

According to the Virginia lawmaker’s office, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (D) and City Council Chairman Linda Cropp (D) are expected to be on hand for the announcement, along with ex-Reps. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) and Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.), Utah Reps. Chris Cannon (R) and Rob Bishop (R), and Shadow Rep. Ray Browne (D), who lobbies for statehood and voting rights as part of the District’s three-member Shadow delegation.

Absent from the proceedings, however, will be D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who holds Washington’s only Congressional seat, a nonvoting post.

Although Norton has lauded Davis’ efforts for drawing attention to D.C. representation, she remains committed to legislation she has sponsored that would provide both House and Senate representation for the District, a spokeswoman said.

“She welcomes the other bills but supports her own,” said Norton spokeswoman Doxie McCoy, referring to the No Taxation Without Representation Act. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) is the sponsor of a companion bill in his chamber.

The District’s junior Shadow Senator, Paul Strauss (D), has likewise objected to the Virginia lawmaker’s approach, stating: “We don’t support the Davis legislation, but we’re certainly glad that Tom is recognizing the problem.

“I appreciate that he recognizes that the District’s status is unjust, but most people in D.C. support full and equal representation and not partial representation,” Strauss added.

Davis’ legislation, first introduced in the 108th Congress, would temporarily expand the chamber to 437 seats, providing the District with full-fledged House representation while also adding a fourth district in Utah, which fell short of receiving a new seat after the 2000 reapportionment.

Following the 2010 Census, the House would contract to 435 seats during reapportionment but would preserve the D.C. district. In a release, Davis’ office called the solution “politically neutral.”

“This bill will correct the long-standing injustice that citizens of the District of Columbia, who pay federal taxes and who serve and die in the Armed Forces, have been denied full voting representation in the U.S. Congress,” the release states. A Davis spokesman did not return a telephone call seeking additional comment.

While voting rights advocates assert it is vital to move the issue forward in the 109th Congress to take advantage of recent momentum, it remains unclear whether any of the proposals — including a third bill sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) that would essentially make D.C. into Maryland’s 9th district for the purpose of voting representation — will garner sufficient support in the chamber.

In a statement several weeks ago, Norton asserted that none of the bills is likely to move to the House floor, but that Members will work “to lay the groundwork that is necessary for voting rights to be taken seriously in the Congress.”

Citing the 1978 constitutional amendment to give the District full voting representation that failed in 1985 after only 16 of the necessary 38 states ratified it, Brown asserted: “If we don’t move this in the 109th Congress, it’s simply going to die, and if that occurs it’s going to be a long, long time before we can engender interest in this issue on the Hill again.”

Browne, who regularly travels the country seeking support for voting rights from state and local legislatures, said he will push Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean to take a position on the Davis legislation.

“We intend to ask him to reach out to the Democrats in the Congress,” said Browne, who is supportive of Davis’ bill.

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