LCCR Urges Congress to Provide D.C. Residents with Full Congressional Representation

Media 06.23,04

Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), testified today in a hearing before the House Government Reform Committee on several proposals that would provide residents of the District of Columbia with voting representation in Congress, including the “No Taxation Without Representation Act” and the “District of Columbia Fairness In Representation Act.”

“The right to vote is nothing short of the definition of democracy,” Henderson told the committee. “It is a fundamental civil and human right and a focal point of America’s efforts to promote freedom throughout the world. Yet our failure to provide this basic right to the citizens of our nation’s capital saps the strength of our call for human rights abroad.”

Henderson pointed out that the debate on the proposals was especially timely, given the fact that Americans – including D.C. residents – are currently risking their lives overseas to establish democracies. “We are only days away from transferring sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government, which will be responsible for holding free elections by early next year. If those elections come and Iraqis are given the chance to elect their own leaders, they will enjoy a right denied to hundreds of thousands of United States citizens.”

The lack of full representation in Congress for D.C. residents has also been raised as a human rights issue, and has gained the attention of the international community. Henderson noted that the situation “has caused widespread concern among international institutions that the United States is violating the human rights of its own citizens at the same time it is pressuring other countries to address violations of their citizen’s human rights.” He cited a recent ruling by the Organization of American States (OAS) that the United States is in violation of Articles 2 and 20 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and pointed to other international organizations that have been considering the issue.

A version of the “No Taxation Without Representation Act” was cleared for floor action by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in 2002, but was not brought up in the full House or Senate floor for a vote. Given the increased attention of the international community on the actions and examples set by the United States, Henderson concluded that the lack of representation for D.C. residents could no longer be ignored: “America has long been the leading advocate for democracy and representative government throughout the world. It is now time to preach democracy at home.”