Senate Democrats

Reid: D.C. Citizens Deserve Basic Civil Right Of Voting Representation

WASHINGTON, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate:

“Yesterday we celebrated the 220th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.  In the Constitution’s preamble, our founders lay out the values to which our nation has aspired:  Justice.  Domestic tranquility.  Common defense.  The general welfare.  The blessings of liberty.

“That government, which has endured and served us so well, recognized these goals could only be secured by equal representation.  That means the right to vote – the right to elect individuals who will protect and promote our personal rights as well as the national interest.

“That universal right to vote was established long ago.  With the 15th Amendment, which barred discrimination based on race.  With the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed that right for women.  And with the Voting Rights Act, which ensured enforcement of those laws.

“In 1873, Susan B. Anthony faced trial for voting illegally. In her defense, she said, ‘In the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence is the assertion of the natural right of all to the ballot; for how can “the consent of the governed” be given, if the right to vote be denied?’

“Today, that right to equal representation is still denied to residents of the District of Columbia.  These nearly 600,000 American citizens pay federal taxes.  They sit on federal juries.  They serve bravely in our Armed Forces.  Yet they are given only a ‘Delegate’ in Congress, not a real voting member.  This is nothing more than ‘shadow representation.’  This injustice has stood for far too long.  Shadow representation is shadow citizenship.

“This afternoon, we will move to vote on a bill that honors the residents of this District – who responsibly meet every single expectation of American citizenship – but are denied this basic civil right in return.

“I commend Senator Lieberman, who has taken leadership on this issue for no reason or agenda other than to do what is right.  I urge all of my colleagues to vote for cloture so that we can guarantee the full rights of citizenship to District residents.

“I also urge my colleagues to support reauthorization of the D.C. College Access Act, which we will vote on this morning.  This legislation provides fairness and opportunity to District students who would otherwise be unfairly disadvantaged by the lack of an in-state university.  It provides scholarships to make up the difference between the in-state and out-of-state tuition costs at public state universities. The D.C. College Access Act levels the playing field – and unlocks the doors to education – and all the opportunity it affords – to thousands of American students right here in Washington, D.C.”