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Instead, advocates of voting representation for Washington, D.C. should craft a solution that is both just and constitutional. That would entail carving out a small federal district limited to the areas of the District with the highest concentration of federal properties, while combining the rest of D.C. with Maryland for voting purposes.
Indeed, Congress should consider full integration of Maryland and the District. The territory originally came from Maryland (land on the other side of the Potomac similarly provided to the federal government by Virginia long ago was returned). Incorporating the city of Washington into Maryland would give District residents the same privileges, including voting for senators as well as congressmen, as the citizens of any other state.
House Republicans have little influence, irrespective of the quality of their ideas. But Republican senators, especially those who have built their careers pushing for responsible judicial appointees, could take the lead in crafting a constitutional solution. Instead, Hatch, one of the leading Senate Republicans, has traded the Constitution for a fourth congressional seat for Utah.
The press release announcing his cosponsorship of the legislation included a bit of boilerplate arguing that District residents “deserve voting rights.” But this was not Senator Hatch’s main point.
Senator Hatch (along with Utah’s other Republican senator, Robert Bennett) was more interested in the fact that the legislation would provide Utah with a fourth seat. As Hatch points out, “Utah missed an extra seat to North Carolina by just 856 people, which is an uncomfortably thin margin of error since Utah is seeing some of the fastest growth in the nation.”
Utah suffered a bad break in the last census, but there always is a losing state that would get an extra congressional seat. Next time it will probably be a different state. There’s no justification for this provision other than as a partisan pay- off. Maintaining the partisan balance certainly doesn’t justify doing violence to the Constitution.
Senator Hatch’s decision to cosponsor the legislation in the Senate raises serious questions about his role on the Judiciary Committee. Not only has Hatch been responsible for overseeing the confirmation of judicial nominees, but he once was talked of as a possible Supreme Court appointee. We are lucky he never was selected, having been willing, in the manner of Esau, to sell our constitutional birthright for a mess of political porridge.
District voting rights advocates understandably argue that the present system is unfair to D.C. residents. But that doesn’t warrant violating the Constitution. As Sen. Hatch, more than most legislators, should realize.
Republicans should take the lead in pressing for a solution that preserves both the democratic and the republican aspects of America’s political system. That’s what being a constitutional republic is all about. We all want “justice.” But justice requires preserving the rule of law, most particularly the integrity of the Constitution.
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Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
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