Historic Victory for DC Voting Rights

Senate Approves Bill to Give DC Residents Vote in the House

February 26, 2009

Washington, DC – After a centuries-long struggle, DC residents may finally get their vote in Congress. In a vote of 61-37, the Senate has passed the DC House Voting Rights Act (S.160).

“This is a historic moment for DC Vote and all who have worked on this issue,” said Ilir Zherka, DC Vote Executive Director. “Through the efforts of our coalition, volunteers, donors and supporters across the nation and world – we did it.”

“We are so grateful to Senators Lieberman and Hatch for their unwavering support of the bill,” added Zherka. “Their commitment to democracy for DC is undeniable; we couldn’t have come this far without their help.”

The bill provides the District of Columbia with a voting member in the House of Representatives. Currently, the District is represented by a non-voting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who can vote in committee but not on the House floor. The Senate version of the bill was passed with a controversial amendment attached to repeal DC’s current gun laws – a measure added by Senator John Ensign (R-NV).

“Our opponents thought that they would either defeat our bill or diminish our victory by adding this gun bill amendment. They didn’t,” emphasized Zherka. “We passed a significant hurdle in our fight for full democracy for DC residents.”

“If anything, this amendment has strengthened our resolve to continue to fight for the rights of Washingtonians,” he added. “Congress repeatedly treats the District as a testing ground for flawed, dangerous legislation. This has to stop – and we’ll keep fighting to ensure that the bill signed into law is not tainted by this amendment.”

The DC Voting Rights Act is expected to easily pass the House. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House will vote on the bill next week. After final passage by both chambers of Congress, the bill will go to a conference committee to finalize the bill language before it is delivered to President Obama.

“In 2007, we were gaining tremendous momentum,” said Zherka. “The huge difference this year is that we have an advocate in the White House who has said he will sign the bill into law.”

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