DC Residents Unite for Voting Rights
Feature Story by Katie Drake - 5/17/2002On Wednesday May 15th, a group of nearly 300 Washington DC residents, politicians, civil rights leaders and activists descended upon Congressional offices for the first citywide DC Voting Rights Lobby Day in the Senate to demand full voting representation for District residents in the U.S. Congress.
The goal of the event was to ask senators to cosponsor the No Taxation Without Representation Act of 2001, a bill introduced in the Senate by Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and to raise awareness on Capitol Hill about the mass support among DC residents to have voting representation in Congress.
The Lobby Day, co-sponsored by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the NAACP, People for the American Way (PFAW), DC Vote and Stand Up for Democracy, was organized at noon to give residents a chance to participate in the lobbying on their lunch hour. The day began with a briefing in the Dirksen Office Building to an overflowing crowd of residents, activists, other supporters, and press.
Speakers such as Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Wade Henderson, Executive Director of LCCR, and Ralph Neas, Executive Director of PFAW, encouraged the crowd to make their voices heard that day for the fundamental right of voting representation.
Afterwards, people were broken in groups to attend the over thirty appointments with senators that had been scheduled for that afternoon. Groups visited senators on both sides of the aisle, emphasizing that DC voting rights is not a partisan issue, but a human rights issue.
Wade Henderson had two successful visits with Senator Durbin’s (D-IL) office and Senator Sarbanes’ (D-MD) office. Mr. Henderson was accompanied by a diverse delegation of DC high school students, "Shadow" Senator Paul Strauss (D-DC), and others. The meetings were positive and the delegation promised to return in coming weeks.
While some groups filled Senate offices with scheduled appointments, other residents delivered packets of information to additional senators. In one afternoon, lobbyists were able to reach every single senate office with lobby packets urging support for full congressional voting representation for District residents.
The No Taxation Without Representation Act of 2001 (S.603) demands voting representation for DC residents or their exemption from federal taxation. DC residents pay the second highest per capita federal income taxes in the nation, but have no voting representation in Congress.
The message of ‘no taxation until representation’ is used to highlight the fact that the DC area is the only part of the United States that is both taxed by the federal government and denied voting representation. Territories, which are also denied voting representation, do not pay federal taxes. District residents have no interest in eliminating their taxes, but demand the fundamental right of representation which they have earned by participating fully as U.S. citizens.
DC Voting Rights Lobby Day was a resounding success. In the elevator on the way to Senator Sarbanes’ office, a senate aide asked Wade Henderson where he was going. In reply, Mr. Henderson explained the day of lobbying for voting representation. The senate aide complained he had moved away from the DC area for that exact reason. After Lobby Day, Mr. Henderson pronounced, the aide will be able to move back.