Washington, D.C. Voting Representation

January 5, 1979

Report Outline
Constitutional Amendment Debate
Changes of Status of U.S. Capital
America's Perception of Washington
Special Focus

Constitutional Amendment Debate

Pending Ratification by State Legislatures

All 50 state legislatures convene this year — 47 this month — and one question most are likely to consider is the political destiny of the District of Columbia. Specifically, state lawmakers will decide whether to accept or reject a proposed constitutional amendment to grant Washington, D.C., full voting representation in Congress. Approval by at least 38 states in the next seven years is required for the measure to take effect. The proposed amendment would give the District representation in the House based on population; give it Senate representation “as though it were a state”; grant participation in the electoral college; and grant participation in the process whereby the Constitution is amended.

The amendment proposes that the city be treated as a state only for the purposes of congressional representation. Its close relationship to the federal government, including its economic ties, would not be affected. Of course, passage of the proposal would not rule out statehood for the District at some future date.

Under a federal law enacted in 1973, Washingtonians gained a form of limited “home rule” which, for the first time in this century, permitted them to elect their own mayor and city council. However, Congress reserved the right to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all cases whatsoever” over the District. Last year, though, both the House and the Senate voted to surrender that prerogative. By large voting majorities, the House (289-127) in March and the Senate (67-32) in August passed a resolution placing before the states the proposed constitutional amendment to give the District full political autonomy. Many supporters assumed that the states would be eager to ratify the measure. But so far, Pennsylvania and Delaware have rejected ratification, and California, after a protracted debate, delayed action. Only New Jersey, Michigan and Ohio have given it their approval.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Washington, DC
Nov. 22, 1996  Governing Washington, D.C.
Jan. 05, 1979  Washington, D.C. Voting Representation
Jul. 10, 1959  Self-Government for City of Washington
Reapportionment and Redistricting
The District of Columbia
Voting and Suffrage