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N.H. lawmakers throw support to D.C. voting rights

The “Taxation Without Representation” district came to the “Live Free or Die” state yesterday to try to kick-start a grassroots effort to bring voting rights in Congress to residents of the District of Columbia.

The district that enfolds the nation’s capital has only a nonvoting delegate in the House of Representatives and no senator. Its budget and laws are subject to congressional review.

“Unfortunately, it is not very well known across the country that the 646,000 residents in D.C. make up more than the populations in the states of Vermont or Wyoming,” said Kimberly Perry, executive director of D.C. Vote, a nonprofit pushing for district representation in Congress. “We pay federal taxes, fight and die in wars, serve on juries and fulfill all of the basic civic obligations of U.S. citizens, but we have no vote in Congress.”

Perry and D.C. Councilman David Catania were in New Hampshire at a hearing of the New Hampshire House Committee of State-Federal Relations and Veteran Affairs, where state Rep. Cindy Rosenwald introduced a resolution endorsing voting rights in the district. The delegation got a warm welcome from committee members, who said the district and the Granite State share a commitment to independence that is enshrined on their famous license plate scribbles.

“New Hampshire is, indeed, all about representative democracy, and we in this House are its most ardent supporters,” Rosenwald said. “And so I believe we should demand the same level of representative democracy for our fellow Americans who live in our great nation’s capital.”

Advocates acknowledge the resolution in the New Hampshire House is symbolic but hope it prompts other governments to take up the cause. Because the District of Columbia is not a state, it does not have voting representation in Congress. Periodic efforts to give the district’s residents a vote have failed in part because of politics: The city is overwhelmingly Democratic, and Congressional Republicans balk at handing over an easy seat in the House and Senate.

“No other major democracy in the world denies the representatives of their capital city a vote in their national legislature, and there is no reason the District of Columbia should continue to suffer this unique indignity and injustice,” said Catania, an independent who is considering a run for mayor.

Two previous efforts to get support in New Hampshire failed because lawmakers were concerned it would lead to a push for change in the U.S. Constitution to grant the district statehood. Yesterday’s resolution made it clear it was about only voting rights, not statehood.

The committee will vote in early March with a full House vote anticipated in the middle of the month.

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