They live and die and pay their taxes and serve their country just like the rest of us, these 600,000 disenfranchised Americans. Yet, in a travesty that flies in the face of fairness, the residents of Washington, D.C., have been denied representation in Congress for centuries.
It's hard to imagine that the signers would subject the citizens of the capital city to taxation without representation, a practice the founders did not hold in high regard. But the Constitution is clear: Members of Congress will be chosen by the electors of "the several states." And Washington, D.C., is a federal district, not a state.
It was likely an oversight. Who could have imagined that the sleepy center of government created in the late 1700s would one day become a thriving metropolis?
But Washington grew and grew. And as it grew, residents began clamoring for representation, landing a nonvoting delegate to the House in 1971. It was, and is, small consolation.
Then, in 2005, a workable plan emerged, one designed to allay the fears of Republicans that giving a seat to D.C. would alter the balance of power in Congress. True-blue Washington would get a seat and presumably elect a Democrat. Blood-red Utah, which narrowly missed gaining a Congress member in the 2000 census, would get its fourth seat and elect a Republican.
But political maneuvering, constitutional questions and an ill-advised amendment to the bill that would have overturned D.C. gun laws, proved to be flies in the ointment that could otherwise heal Washington's wounds. The latest incarnation of the bill, which was slated to be heard by the House this week, has been withdrawn.
Now, with the 2010 census under way and Utah virtually assured of earning a fourth congressional seat, the Beehive State stands nothing to gain by serving as a pawn in this long-running chess game. And it's become increasingly clear that the only way to solve D.C.'s dilemma is through a constitutional amendment.
It won't be easy. It takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate, and ratification by three-fourths of the states, to amend the Constitution. The last time a D.C. voting rights amendment was floated it was sunk by the states in 1985 after only 16 of the required 38 approved the change.
But it's time to try again, and give the states another chance to be reasonable. If couched correctly -- a vote for the amendment is a vote against taxation without representation -- perhaps state legislatures can put partisan politics aside and succeed where Congress failed.