Thursday, February 26, 2009

Taxation AND Representation

When I first moved to Washington DC in May 1993, I remember being outraged about one thing. It was something I had long known, but had never affected me so I didn't spend much time thinking about.

But suddenly I had to face this thing head-on: Residents of the District of Columbia suffered from taxation without representation. Yes, they can vote in elections, but they do not have any voting representation in Congress. And Congress literally controls the purse strings of the District.

I feel strongly about voting. It's not a right or a privilege. It's an obligation. I've never missed an opportunity to visit a polling place and always voted by absentee ballot if I couldn't do it in person. Whenever I walk into the voting booth, I carry the hopes and dreams and burdens of people around the world who will never have a voice in their own lives. I think about that I'm only the 3rd generation of women in my family to vote, as are most of my friends. Nana was 4 when women were finally allowed to vote.

So living in the District became a political issue for me. Could I live within its boundaries even though voting rights were very new and the District had no voting representation in Congress?
D.C. residents have been fighting for voting rights since 1801, when Congress took control of the newly created capital. It wasn't until 1964 that residents were able to cast presidential ballots, and it took nearly another decade for Congress to pass the Home Rule Act, allowing for the direct election of the mayor and other city officials.

Yet a full vote on Capitol Hill has been elusive. Although the district has elected a representative since the 1970s, that House delegate can only vote in committees.
But today that all began to change. The Senate passed a bill 61-37 that would give DC a full voting seat in the House of Representatives beginning in 2011. If it passes the House, as it's expected to do, President Obama has already indicated he will sign it. Of course, it will then have to withstand legal challenges on constitutional grounds.

Ultimately, after living in the District for almost 2 years, I decided to move to Virginia. I simply couldn't accept having no Congressional representation. In my opinion, this is a wonderful step forward for the District.

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