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Lack of Congressional Representation for D.C. Indicates Shortcoming of U.S. Political System
The failure of the D.C. Voting Rights Act to pass in Congress perpetuates a flaw in America’s democratic system, Freedom House said today.
The bill, which was blocked from a hearing in the Senate yesterday, would have provided a voting representative in the House of Representatives for the District of Columbia. The bill passed the House in April, but was three votes short of the necessary 60 in order to proceed in the Senate.
“Equal representation in the national legislature for all citizens is a key element of political freedom,” said Thomas O. Melia, deputy executive director of Freedom House. “It is simply an embarrassment that this country promotes democracy abroad while the nearly 600,000 U.S. citizens residing in the nation’s capital continue to be denied a voice in Congress.”
One of the criteria examined by Freedom House in determining a country’s level of political rights in its annual survey, Freedom in the World, is whether “each person’s vote is given equivalent weight to those of other voters in order to ensure equal representation.”
“It is crucial that democratic countries such as the U.S. hold themselves to high standards,” said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House. “Addressing inequalities in their own systems increases these countries’ ability to promote freedom abroad and serve as a clear example of the concept of equal representation for all citizens.”
The District of Columbia is incorporated separately from the 50 states, and residents only received the right to vote in presidential elections through a constitutional amendment passed in 1961. In 1973, residents earned the right to elect local government representatives. Prior to that, DC had been directly governed by Congress.
The U.S. is one of 49 countries given a score of 1, the highest possible for political rights and civil liberties, in the 2007 edition of Freedom in the World. This fall, Freedom House will be releasing a special report, Today’s American: How Free?, that will provide an in-depth evaluation of the state of political rights and civil liberties in the U.S. today.
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Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expression of freedom around the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in the U.S. since 1972.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.