The 23rd Amendment gives residents of the District of Columbia the right to have their votes counted in presidential elections. D.C. residents have only one non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives.
Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution gives Congress the power “to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such capital district.”
The States of Virginia and Maryland donate a 100-square-mile area for the seat of the U.S. government. The first commissioners who are appointed to acquire the property and construct the first buildings name the capital city after the first president. The 100-square-mile plot is designated the District of Columbia. This area includes the City of Washington, Alexandria, Va., and Georgetown, Md. Residents of the newly founded city of Washington, and the existing cities of Georgetown and Alexandria, continue to vote for federal congressional representatives as citizens of either Maryland or Virginia.
The District of Columbia becomes the official seat of government. When established, the area had a population of only 5,000 residents, far fewer than the 30,000 specified for the size of congressional districts. Most are temporary residents, living in the new city for the few months that Congress is in session each year and returning to their homes to vote.
Congress takes up residence in the new capital and passes the Organic Acts of 1801, taking control of the District of Columbia. Under the law, residents in the District are denied the right to vote in either Maryland or Virginia – the states from which the District was created.
Although bills have been introduced as early as 1803 to return parts of the District of Columbia not being used by the federal government to Maryland and Virginia, such a bill is not passed until 1846. In this year, Congress votes to give back to Virginia 32 square miles of land that Virginia had donated for the federal capital. Residents of Alexandria and what is now Arlington County, Va., again became Virginia citizens and are entitled to vote in that state.
In response to charges that the D.C. government is corrupt and nearing bankruptcy, Congress, by temporary legislation, creates a commission form of government to run the District. For the next 100 years, three presidential appointed commissioners run the District. The position of the non-voting delegate is abolished.
This law creates a permanent form of government in which the District of Columbia is a municipal corporation governed by three civil commissioners. Two of the presidential appointed commissioners are civilians; the third is an officer detailed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Congress serves as the District’s legislature.
Congress directs the appointment of a three-member Board of Elections to oversee the election of local political party officers, party committee members, and delegates to political party national conventions.
The 23rd Amendment grants people in the District of Columbia the right to vote in presidential elections. The District of Columbia is to have electoral votes equal to the number it would have if it were a state, but no more than the least populated state.
The U.S. House of Representatives restores the position of non-voting delegate from the District of Columbia. The Honorable Walter Fauntroy will be elected to the position in 1971.
This federal law provides for an elected mayor of the District of Columbia and a 13-member City Council that is composed of one chairman, four at-large members, and eight members from the respective city wards. Congress dictates that two of the at-large members must come from the non-majority party. Walter E. Washington becomes the first elected mayor under the new system.
With overwhelming bipartisan support, Congress passes by two-thirds majority in each chamber a constitutional amendment granting voting rights to residents of the District of Columbia. The amendment, which requires ratification by 38 states before it becomes effective, has a seven-year time limit on ratification. The amendment is ratified by only 16 of the required 38 states.
In the early 1990s, the District of Columbia experiences a severe fiscal crisis brought on by mismanagement, costly spending, and the crippling costs uniquely borne by the District of Columbia. Congress establishes a financial control board and transfers the majority of the mayor’s authority to the board. In 1999, most authority over city agencies will be returned to the city’s elected mayor and city council.
The U.S. Supreme Court says that District of Columbia residents do not have a constitutional right to a voting representative in Congress. Without giving the issue a full hearing, the justices affirmed an earlier decision by a special three-judge panel. Dozens of prominent plaintiffs contended that the District’s 519,000 residents should have the same rights as citizens in the 50 states to choose voting members of Congress. The District has an elected delegate who can vote on House committees but not on the House floor.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D., Conn.) again introduces the No Taxation Without Representation Act, which provides for full voting representation in Congress for the residents of the District of Columbia, including two senators and as many representatives as a similarly populous state would be entitled to under the law. The legislation treats the District of Columbia as a state for purposes of congressional voting representation. Additionally, it prescribes a procedure for the first elections under this act.
Reintroduced in the 110th Congress, the D.C. Voting Rights Act grants the District of Columbia a seat in the House of Representatives. The bill is essentially the same as proposed legislation that obtained bipartisan support during the 109th Congress. During a September 2006 hearing before a Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, legal scholars and lawmakers express unanimous consent that denying D.C. residents a vote in Congress is a problem that must be corrected. The D.C. Voting Rights Act also passes the House Committee on Government Reform in May 2006 by a vote of 29-4.
The U.S. Supreme Court affirms an earlier ruling that D.C. is not constitutionally entitled to voting representation in Congress. The Court issued its ruling without a hearing, citing a precedent in a 2000 case in which the justices also ruled that D.C. is not entitled to voting representation because it is not a state. The ruling does not affect the fight for D.C. statehood. Congress could pass a law that gives D.C. a vote in Congress.