Jonathan Prince on 16 Oct 2000 19:40:41 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Supreme Court Affirms Lack of D.C. Vote

Supreme Court Affirms Lack of D.C. Vote

By Bill Miller
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday , October 16, 2000

The Supreme Court today affirmed a lower court's ruling that District 
of Columbia residents do not have a constitutional right to a voting 
representative in Congress.

The justices' ruling was a blow to a coalition of D.C. activists who 
had turned to the courts for what they hoped would be a landmark 
voting rights decision. They contended that the District's 500,000 
residents should have the same rights as citizens of the 50 states to 
choose voting members of Congress. The District has an elected 
delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who may vote in committee but is 
barred from voting on the House floor.

Activists said they now will push Congress to pass D.C. voting rights 
legislation. But the political process faces obstacles, too - 
Congress wouldn't even permit the D.C. government, a party in the 
case, to spend money on the voting rights suit. And the Justice 
Department argued in court against the activists' position.

"The battle moves to a different arena," said Walter A. Smith Jr., 
one of the attorneys on the case. "Ultimately we're going to win 
this. It's just a question of when, and in which arena. Congress now 
has the option of doing the right thing."

The Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision in a pair of 
cases that had the potential to reverse 199 years of federal 
tradition. In March, a special three-judge panel ruled that the 
Constitution and Supreme Court precedent provide voting rights in 
Congress only to people living in states and not to residents of the 

The panel's ruling hinged largely upon Article 1 of the Constitution, 
which says that Congress shall be comprised of "Members chosen every 
second Year by the People of the several States." Because the 
District is not a state, the majority held, its citizens are not 
entitled to a vote in Congress. The majority ruling said the court 
was not "blind to the inequity of the situation" but said it was up 
to Congress to act.

Because the lawsuits concerned voting rights, they were entitled to 
automatic review by the Supreme Court. But that didn't necessarily 
mean all nine justices would convene a full-scale hearing, and today 
the justices decided to let the panel's ruling stand after a review 
of legal papers. The action creates a legal precedent, lawyers said.

The Supreme Court considered two lawsuits filed by separate sets of 
D.C. activists.

One of the lawsuits, Adams et al. v. Clinton et al., wanted the court 
to make it possible for D.C. residents to choose statehood or unite 
with another state, such as Maryland. The other suit, Alexander et 
al. v. Daley et al., wanted the court to order Congress to find a way 
to gain D.C. a vote.

The Adams complaint was pushed by a group of 20 activists led by 
attorney George S. LaRoche. The D.C. government joined 57 residents 
in filing the Alexander suit; Smith, a former deputy corporation 
counsel, was among the attorneys working on that case.

Only one justice, John Paul Stevens, voted to hear oral arguments in 
the Alexander suit. Stevens said he would have let the Adams ruling 

Even while the lawsuits were working their way through the courts, 
community leaders were waging a grass-roots campaign for their cause. 
In November, the District will begin distributing license plates that 
read "Washington D.C. - Taxation Without Representation." DC Vote, a 
nonprofit group, has produced a videotape and other materials 
showcasing the issue and has lobbied delegates at recent political 

 2000 The Washington Post

Jonathan Prince          : No New  : Oilgarchies    :
  'Political designed to make lies sound
  truthful and murder respectable, and to give an
  appearance of solidity to pure wind.' - George Orwell

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