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D.C. Vote to Lead Rally at OSCE’s U.S. Gathering

When some 300 members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly meet in Washington this weekend, D.C. voting rights activists will rally downtown to urge the international body to pass an amendment pressing Congress to grant D.C. residents equal voting rights on Capitol Hill.

The amendment, which was sponsored by parliamentarians from Switzerland, Canada and the United States, is set to be debated July 3 in the OSCE’s 3rd Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions and will be up for a final vote before the entire Parliamentary Assembly July 5. It calls on the U.S. government to grant residents of Washington equal voting rights in Congress in accordance with OSCE criteria for membership.

Earlier this week, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who will address the Parliamentary Assembly, released a letter to voting rights supporters through the local advocacy organization D.C. Vote asking residents to gather at Freedom Plaza on Friday at noon for an “equal voting rights for D.C. rally.”

In that letter, Norton warned that some members of the U.S. delegation to the 55-nation Parliamentary Assembly, which is meeting in the United States for the first time, may try to stop the resolution.

“While I am on the inside, I need to be able to point to support from D.C. residents on the outside,” Norton’s letter said. “This rally is a unique opportunity for D.C. residents to show support for D.C. voting rights to people around the country and around the world, and to thereby bring pressure on the U.S. Congress to do the right thing.”

D.C. Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss (D), who will speak at the rally Friday, said he believes it is important for the international group to see firsthand the level of frustration District residents feel about this issue.

“We’re going to show them the tyranny we live under firsthand and hopefully expose some of the hypocrisy that America preaches one thing to the rest of the world and yet doesn’t practice democracy here in its capital,” Strauss said. “What better way to showcase the struggle for full democracy than on the weekend of the Fourth of July.”

Also on Friday, D.C. Vote plans to unveil a political art display in Freedom Plaza, across from the J.W. Marriott Hotel where the OSCE members will meet. The group hopes the artwork will visually demonstrate the state of democracy in the District. The 16-by-16-foot display, titled “Under Development: Equal Voting Rights for D.C.,” features four old-style voting booths surrounded by a chain-link fence and topped with barbed wire and signs reading, “D.C. residents keep out! By order of Congress.”

Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.

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