I originally published this post at a former group blog, The Closet Moderate, in 2013.
I’ve been thinking about Washington, D.C. and its unusual quasi-colonial status.
People in what became the District of Columbia had voting rights as citizens of Maryland and Virginia until 1801, when the District was incorporated. In 1847, the federal government retroceded the Virginia portion of the District to that Commonwealth, so the voters their got back their rights as citizens of Virginia. Citizens of what remained of the federal district did not. In 1961, the states approved the Twenty-Third Amendment, which granted the citizens of Washington three electoral votes for President and Vice President. By that time, Congress had also given the District home rule, which guaranteed them some of the control over local affairs that a state has, though not all of it, and not in any way that couldn’t be rescinded by Congress.
That still left Congressional representation. Although Washington elects a delegate to the House of Representatives, she has no vote. In 1978, Congress sought to remedy this problem by passing another amendment to the Constitution that would have treated the District as a state for purposes of representation in Congress. It went over like a lead balloon, with only sixteen of the necessary thirty-eight states approving the amendment before time expired in 1985.
Since then, several bills have been introduced in Congress that would admit Washington as a state, but none have come close to passage, and there is some doubt about whether it would even be constitutional without Maryland’s permission.
Several other options have been proposed. Retroceding the remaining District to Maryland is one solution and Representative Regula of Ohio regularly proposed bills to that effect, but none were successful. There was also some question as to whether Maryland would want it back. Further, the Twenty-Third Amendment would be nonsensical without a federal district, and would need to be repealed.
So as long as a Constitutional amendment is required, here’s my solution: let the people of Washington vote as though they were Marylanders in federal elections, but not in state elections. That sounds like it violates all sorts of constitutional provisions, but it’s an amendment, so we can mostly do whatever we want. I even wrote a draft of the text, if you’re into that sort of thing:
§1. For the purpose of election of the President, Vice President, Senators, and Representatives, and for the purpose of apportionment of Representatives, the residents of the District constituting the seat of the government of the United States shall be treated as residents of the State from which that District shall have been ceded.
§2. The Twenty-Third Article of Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
§3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the States within seven years from the date of submission.
This gives everybody something. To those who think the District shouldn’t be a state: it still isn’t. For those Washingtonians who want voting representatives in both Houses of Congress: you got it. For Democratic officeholders in Maryland: your re-election just got easier. Democrats in Congress: you just got a new House member. Republicans in Congress: yeah, they got an extra member, but you didn’t give up any Senate seats, and Maryland’s Senate seats have both been held by Democrats for the last twenty-six years, anyway. Republicans in Maryland state government: yeah, you guys would kinda get screwed. Sorry.