DC Voting Rights

Daniel SolomonA Historic Window of Opportunity
By Daniel Solomon, Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation
March 5, 2007

A historic compromise has created the best opportunity in a generation for the citizens of the District of Columbia to achieve voting representation in Congress. For D.C.’s nonprofit community, this is a time for urgent action to help address the basic injustice of disenfranchisement and to increase the region’s capacity to leverage federal resources.

A special members’ briefing on this issue will be held on March 14, and we hope to see you there.

Last year, Representative Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced the DC Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act. This bill would expand the U.S. House of Representatives by two seats, creating one new seat for DC and one new seat for Utah. Utah narrowly missed gaining an additional seat in the 2000 U.S. Census.

Because this arrangement is unlikely to change the partisan balance on Capitol Hill, the bill has received unprecedented levels of support. Last May, the bill was approved by the House Committee on Government Reform by a 29-4 vote. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has pledged to move the bill forward this year.

While success is possible, it is by no means guaranteed since the new Congress has a full agenda. Only sustained engagement from the public will motivate action to redress the obvious injustice of taxation without representation in the District of Columbia.

Fortunately, there is much that the nonprofit and philanthropic community can do to make a difference. DC Vote and its 60-plus coalition are engaged in a public awareness campaign anchored by a large-scale Voting Rights March on April 16, DC Emancipation Day. We are asking organizations (including foundations) to close their offices on this official holiday and urge their employees and supporters to join this historic march.

As the former chair of DC Vote, I’m grateful to the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers for helping to ensure that the nonprofit community is engaged in the public awareness effort. We are looking forward to the members briefing on March 14.

Daniel Solomon is the President of the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation and a co-founder of DC Vote, a 501(c)(3) education and advocacy organization whose mission is to secure full voting representation in Congress for the residents of the District of Columbia.