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OSCE Overwhelmingly Approves D.C. Resolution

At a morning meeting today, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly passed a resolution sponsored by D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) calling on the U.S. government to grant the residents of the District of Columbia equal voting rights in Congress.

The resolution was passed by the OSCE’s Third Committee over the weekend by a vote of 60- 3 with Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) — one of 12 Members of Congress acting as delegates to the assembly — among the dissenting votes. But during the full assembly vote this morning, the measure passed without objection.

At a press conference where she thanked the assembly for its support of her resolution, Norton asked the delegates of the OSCE’s 55 member-nations to become “messengers to the world” on the issue of D.C. voting rights.

“Once this becomes known, it will fall,” Norton promised of the current system.

The Congresswoman also said that by passing the resolution today, the OSCE has joined hands with the Organization of American States Human Rights Commission, which in February 2004 found the denial of voting representation in Congress to be a violation of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

“What you’re going to begin to see here is a cumulative effect,” Norton said of efforts to have more national and international bodies condemn D.C.’s voting rights status. “How much violation is too much violation from a world power on a world stage?”

D.C. Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss (D) explained that the OSCE resolution’s call for full representation in Congress also sends a strong signal that “gimmick voting rights” resolutions are unacceptable.

“The resolution calls for the U.S. to provide equal voting rights,” he said. “Any of these half or unequal measures aren’t in compliance with the resolution.”

Tim Cooper, executive director of Worldrights, a human rights advocacy organization, said the power of international pressure on Congress should not underestimated.

The goal now, he said, is to move the international pressure generated by the OSCE resolution “into the halls of Congress. … We think we will find allies in the Republican party: to bring D.C. voting rights to the forefront of the legislative agenda.

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