Emphasizing Events Important to the DC Voting Representation Movement
A History of Democracy Denied
The history of the disenfranchisement of the people of the District of Columbia is unique. It is a story that helps us understand the frustrations the people of Washington have experienced over the past 200 years and one that helps illustrate the importance of being ever vigilant of the manner by which an elected government treats the people it is supposed to serve. Ironically, no one is really sure why the Americans living in the District of Columbia lost their voting franchise in the first place.
The city of Washington was first incorporated in 1791 on the northern shore of the Potomac River near Georgetown, Maryland, and across the river from Alexandria, Virginia. The "Federal District," or the "District of Columbia" as it came to be called, consisted of pieces of land that were ceded by Maryland and Virginia to be used as the seat of the Federal Government.
Representation in Congress, Before 1801
Prior to the establishment of the District of Columbia in December 1800, residents of the newly founded city of Washington, and the existent cities of Georgetown and Alexandria, continued to vote for federal congressional representatives as citizens of either Maryland or Virginia. In fact, Uriah Forrest, a resident of Georgetown within the boundaries of the District of Columbia, served as a Representative from the state of Maryland to the U.S. Congress from 1793-1794.
When Congress arrived to take up residence in the new capital city in 1801, they passed the Organic Acts of 1801, which first disenfranchised the people living in the District of Columbia. The Act no longer permitted residents of the District of Columbia to continue to vote in the states from which the District had been created.
Early Efforts for DC Voting Rights in Congress
Very early on, it was realized that there was an inherent inequity in the treatment of citizens who resided in the District. Veterans of the War for Independence, who had fought for democracy and against 'taxation without representation', were now being taxed without representation because they resided in Washington, DC, the capital of the new democracy. As early as 1803, a bill to retrocede the parts of District of Columbia not being used by the Federal Government back to Maryland and Virginia was introduced in Congress. In the late 19th century, the city charter of Georgetown was revoked, and Georgetown and Washington were consolidated into one city.
A Unique Form of Government
In 1871, nearly 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the District had its first democratically elected government. It was organized like a territorial government and consisted of a governor, a bicameral legislature with an appointed 11-member Upper House, and an elected 22-member Lower House. This government was notoriously corrupt and wasteful. After just three years, Congress intervened and set up a "temporary" solution, which lasted for the next 100 years. Under this "temporary" system, three presidential appointed commissioners ran the city. In the late 1960s, President Johnson reduced the number of commissioners to one, whom he began addressing as "Mr. Mayor."
Years of civil rights activism and extreme pressure from the Soviet Union finally culminated in passage of the Twenty-Third Amendment, which allowed District residents to cast their ballots for President and Vice President. The "Home Rule Act," which was passed in 1974, granted District residents their first locally elected government in one hundred years. Under "home rule," a mayor and a city council governed the city.
In the early 1990's, the city experienced a severe fiscal crisis brought on by mismanagement, costly spending, and the crippling costs uniquely borne by the District of Columbia. A financial control board was established to rein in the District's finances. In 1995, Congress transferred the majority of the mayor's authority to the unelected control board. In 1999, most authority over city agencies was returned to the city's elected mayor and city council.
A Lesser Democracy in DC
Throughout all the changes in the form and manner of District governance, one thing has remained clear: District residents have had inadequate power over their own affairs. The ultimate power over the District is in the hands of the Congress. From 1801 to the present, Congress has ruled over the District with little regard for the promise of America's democracy - that those who govern derive their powers from the governed. The people of the District of Columbia have not only been left out of decisions affecting how our nation is run, they have been left out of decisions affecting how their own city is run.
Throughout our nation's history, citizens of the District of Columbia have given the full measure of their allegiance to the United States. They have fought in wars for the United States; they have paid taxes; and they have provided labor and resources to the United States government. Yet for 200 years District residents have been bystanders in the governance of their nation and city.
As the District of Columbia's Delegate to Congress has said, "It is time to fix the left over business from civil rights, and bring equal rights to all Americans, including District residents."
DC Voting Rights Historical Timeline
1779: Continental Congress, which formed pursuant to the Articles of Confederation, first considered the creation of a national capital city.
June 1783: In Philadelphia, a crowd of soldiers protested in front of the building where Congress was meeting, prompting the members to adjourn their proceedings after Pennsylvania authorities refused to protect the Continental Congress. In September of that same year, the Continental Congress appointed a committee chaired by James Madison to consider the amount of control that the Continental Congress should have over its seat. The committee's report recommended that the national legislature should maintain "exclusive jurisdiction" over a capital district.
1783: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison suggest that Georgetown, Maryland be the site of the future federal city.
September 17, 1787: The constitution is ratified at the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention. The constitution provides for creation of a separate national capital, and the search begins for a site. Delegates to the Convention wanted to separate the federal capital from a state capital, and also wished to allow Congress to protect itself by endowing it with police power over the District.
1787: The U.S. Constitution is ratified. Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 gives the U.S. Congress the power "to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such capital district." The area where the new capital would be located has not yet been fixed.
June 21, 1788: The US Constitution, as adopted by the Constitutional Convention on September 15, 1787, is ratified by the states. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17, gives Congress authority "to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may by cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States..."
1790: The site for the new capital district is selected. Combining land from Maryland and Virginia to form the District of Columbia, area residents continue to vote in, and even run for Congress from, their former states.
July 16, 1790: The Residency Act of 1790 gives the president power to choose a site for the capital city on the east bank of the Potomac River between the mouth of the Eastern Branch and the Connogocheague Creek near Hagerstown (70 miles upstream).
1791: Presidential proclamation made by George Washington "to survey and limit a part of the territory of ten miles square on both sides of the river Potomac, so as to comprehend Georgetown, in Maryland, and extend to the Eastern Branch." Congress names the area the Territory of Columbia and the capital the City of Washington.
January 22, 1791: George Washington appoints Thomas Johnson and Daniel Carroll, of Maryland, and Dr. David Stuart, of Virginia, as "Commissioners for surveying the District Territory accepted by the said Act for the permanent seat of the Government of the United States …." Andrew Ellicot and Benjamin Banneker begin surveying city boundaries.
January 24, 1791: President Washington selects a site that includes portions of Maryland and Virginia.
1793 - 1794: Uriah Forrest, a resident of Georgetown is elected to serve from Maryland in the U.S. House of Representatives.
December 1, 1800: The federal capital is transferred from Philadelphia to the site on the Potomac River now called the City of Washington, in the territory of Columbia. At the time of the 1800 census, the population of the new capital included 10,066 whites, 793 free Negroes and 3,244 slaves. Congress meets for the first time in an unfinished capitol building. President Adams and wife Abigail move into a sparse White House. Congress took over exclusive jurisdiction of the District, from territory ceded by Maryland and Virginia, and did not provide voting representation for residents.
1800: Augustus Brevoort Woodward warned about the danger of allowing exclusive Congressional rule over DC in "Enquiries into the Necessity or Expediency of Assuming Exclusive Legislation over The District of Columbia":
- "The effect of an assumption then, is to reduce us to that political situation, which Americans deprecate; we are to be governed by laws, in the making of which, we have no participation; we have no share in the state governments, of which we have no reason to complain, for we are separated from them; but we have no share in electing the members of congress, who are exclusively to legislate for us. We are reduced to the mortifying situation, of being subject to laws, made, or to be made, by we know not whom; by agents, not of our choice, in no degree responsible to us, who from their situation, and the circumstance of having other constituents to serve, are not likely to be very tender of our rights, or very much alive to our interests. We resort in vain to the constitution, for the means of relief; from that instrument, we cannot hope to have our situation ameliorated."
1800: Washington City and unincorporated rural areas of District governed by 3-member Board of Commissioners. Locally-elected governments of George Town and Alexandria City left intact-George Town under Maryland law, Alexandria City under Virginia law.
February 27, 1801: In the Organic Act of 1801, Congress divides the District into the counties of Washington (former Maryland area) and Alexandria (former Virginia area). Congress assumes jurisdiction over the District of Columbia from territory ceded by Maryland and Virginia, and did not provide for voting representation for residents. With the passage of the Organic Act of 1801, residents of the nation's capital were denied the right to representation they had shared with their fellow countrymen. Representation was taken away from these citizens - a fact that few realize.
May 3, 1802: Congress grants the City of Washington its first municipal charter. Voters, defined as white males who pay taxes and have lived in the city for at least a year, receive the right to elect a twelve-member council. The mayor is appointed by the president. Five members serve as upper house, seven serve as lower house. Georgetown and Alexandria governments left intact. No self-government for unincorporated counties. (See the History and Demographics appendix for more historical timelines specific to DC's local government).
1803: A bill was introduced into Congress to retrocede the areas back to the states of Virginia and Maryland. In 1804, a bill was introduced to retrocede all portions except Washington City, but it was defeated 97 to 46. Residents of Georgetown and Alexandria tried to return to their respective original states again in 1818 and 1834.
1804: Congress extends 1802 charter 15 years, provides direct elections of both houses of the Council, each with 9 members.
May 4, 1812: Congress provides for election of the mayor by the two houses of the Council. Enlarges the Council with an eight member Board of Aldermen (two from each of four wards) elected for two-year terms, and a twelve member Common Council (three from each of the four wards), elected for one-year terms.
1814: English troops burn the capitol and other federal buildings during the War of 1812.
March 15, 1820: Under the Act of 1820, Congress amends the Charter of the City of Washington for the direct election of the mayor by resident voters.
1841: President William Henry Harrison, in his Inaugural Address, said:
- "The people of the District of Columbia are not the subjects of the people of the States, but free American citizens. Being in the latter condition when the Constitution was formed, no words used in that instrument could have been intended to deprive them of that character. If there is anything in the great principle of unalienable rights so emphatically insisted upon in our Declaration of Independence, they could neither make nor the United States accept a surrender of their liberties and become the subjects of their former fellow-citizens. …[T]he grant to Congress of exclusive jurisdiction in the District of Columbia can be interpreted, so far as respects the aggregate people of the United States, as meaning nothing more than to allow to Congress the controlling power necessary to afford a free and safe exercise of the functions assigned to the General Government by the Constitution. In all other respects the legislation of Congress should be adapted to their peculiar position and wants and be conformable with their deliberate opinions of their own interests."
July 9, 1846: Congress passes a law returning the city of Alexandria and Alexandria County to the state of Virginia. DC residents living in the former Virginia portion of the District (about one-third of DC) retroceded to Virginia. The state of Virginia requested, the federal government approved, and the citizens of the portion of the District south of the Potomac River agreed to merge back into that state. The citizens of Alexandria Town, the State of Virginia, Congress, and the President approved of the decision to fragment George Washington's original "diamond." The citizens of Alexandria County did not approve, but they were few in number. The residents of Washington City, Washington County, and Georgetown were not allowed to vote on the matter.
May 17, 1848: Congress approves new charter for the City of Washington allowing voters to elect Board of Assessors (1-member from each ward), the register, the collector, and surveyor. Abolishes property qualifications for voting, extends voting rights to all white male voters who pay $1 yearly school tax.
April 16, 1862: Congress abolishes slavery in the federal district (City of Washington, Washington County, and Georgetown).
January 8, 1867: Congress grants black males the right to vote in local elections.
1868: 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified. "No state shall make or enforce law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
1870: 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified. "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
June 1, 1871: The first era of "home rule" ends. In anticipation of the District's centennial, Congress consolidated the three remaining municipal governments of the District-Georgetown, Washington City, and Washington County-into one territorial government. These are replaced by a Governor and Council appointed by the president. An elected House of Delegates and a non-voting delegate to Congress are created. In this act, the jurisdiction and territorial government came to be called the District of Columbia, thus combining the governments of Georgetown, the City of Washington and the County of Washington.
June 20, 1874: The territorial government of the District of Columbia is abolished after Alexander "Boss" Shepherd, an appointee of President Grant, spent triple the amount he projected to spend on the 1871 Comprehensive Plan ($18,872,566 instead of $6,578,397) to improve the local infrastructure, which had become dilapidated during the Civil War. The non-voting delegate to Congress is eliminated. Congress provides for the appointment, by the President, of three temporary commissioners and a subordinate military engineer. The House recommended that regular federal contribution should be at lease 50% of local expenditures. The position of the nonvoting delegate is abolished.
December 1874: The Joint Select Committee on the Affairs of the District of Columbia concluded (the "Morrell Report") that the proportion of local expenditures that ought to be borne by the Federal government was "not deemed susceptible to exact determination." Instead, the Committee proposed that an annual Federal payment be made to balance the approved budget after the inclusion of locally raised revenues collected in taxes and fees set at rates comparable with those prevailing gin other communities.
June 11, 1878: With the Organic Act of 1878, Congress establishes the form of government that lasts until August 1967. Congress provides for the District of Columbia government as a municipal corporation governed by three Presidential-appointed commissioners: two civilian commissioners and a commissioner from the military corps of engineers. Congress serves as the District's legislature.
1888: A citizens "Committee of 100" urges Congress to provide DC with an elected local government, elected representatives to Congress and a vote for President in the Electoral College.
1914 - 1919: Washington, DC, sends thousands of youth to defend freedom and democracy in the First World War. DC suffers 635 casualties - more than three of the states.
1920: 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified. "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."
1928: DC voters decried their lack of representation by nicknaming Election Day "Humiliation Day."
1938: Almost 300 citizen organizations meet to vote on two key questions: (1) should District residents vote for president and congressional representation? By a 13 to 1 margin citizens expressed their desire for federal voting representation. And (2) should the District have home rule? By a 7 to 1 margin again the answer was "yes." It took until 1940, however, for the Democratic Party to support voting rights for the people of the District.
1943 - 1945: Washington, DC, sends thousands of youth to defend freedom and democracy in World War II. DC suffers 3,575 casualties - more than four of the states.
1950 - 1953: Washington, DC, sends thousands of youth to defend freedom and democracy in the Korean War. DC suffers 547 casualties - more than eight of the states.
1953: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that Congress may grant self-government to DC to the same extent as in the case of territories (District of Columbia v. Thompson).
1955: Act of August 12, 1955, directs Board of Commissioners to appoint a 3-member Board of Elections; not more than 2 to be affiliated with same political party. Members to serve 3-year terms. At the same time provision made for election of local political party officers, party committee members, and delegates to political party national conventions.
1961: The 23rd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, granting DC residents the right to vote in U.S. Presidential elections for the first time ever. In spite of a population of over 700,000 people, the District is limited to the same number of electors as that of the smallest state. The amendment was opposed by all border and southern states, except Tennessee.
1964: DC residents vote in overwhelming numbers in their first U.S. Presidential Election ever.
1964 - 1973: Washington, DC, sends thousands of youth to defend freedom and democracy in the Vietnam War. DC suffers 243 casualties - more than ten of the states.
1965: The Federal Voting Rights Act is passed to strengthen the 14th and 15th Amendments and give true access to voting for Americans of color. Over half a million African-Americans living in DC are still without voting representation in Congress.
May 4, 1966: In Hobson v. Tobriner, the DC District Court upholds the constitutionality of the three-member commission. The court also rejects the taxation without representation argument.
July 5, 1966: In Green v. DC, the DC Court of Appeals rejects the taxation without representation argument with respect to DC taxes.
1967: President Lyndon Johnson, like Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, supported home rule for the District. President Johnson stated that "for much too long this Nation has tolerated in the District of Columbia conditions that our ancestors fought a revolution to eliminate." In 1967, he submitted "Reorganization Plan No. 3" to Congress and won approval to abolish the 3-member commission and replace it with a single commissioner and a nine-member council, all appointed by the President. This has come to be viewed as a preparatory step toward self-government.
April 22, 1968: District residents receive the right to elect a Board of Education.
1969: Reverend Doug Moore, Chuck Stone, Jesse Anderson, Sam Smith, and African-American activists formed the DC Statehood Committee. Sam Smith outlined how DC could become a state in an article in the DC Gazette in 1970. That year, the Statehood Committee established the DC Statehood Party to run Julius Hobson against Walter Fauntroy for the District's non-voting Delegate seat, and gained about 12 percent of the vote.
1970: Congress passes District of Columbia Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act reorganizing court system. The Act separates federal from local courts, assigns all cases of original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. Local courts gain similar powers to state courts. State level court system established for DC-President Nixon supported a "state level" court system and a non-voting Delegate to Congress. In 1970, the DC Superior Court was established, and the DC Election Act gave DC a non-voting Delegate to the House of Representatives. President Nixon, like Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson before, supported home rule in DC. He established the Nelson Commission to study local governance for DC. The Commission found that, despite two major reorganizations in 20 years, the government did not control all the functions it should, its leaders lacked management authority, and its organization diffused accountability.
August 7, 1970: In Breakfield v. DC, the DC Circuit rejects the taxation without representation argument with respect to DC taxes.
1970: The U.S. House of Representatives restores the position of non-voting Delegate from the District of Columbia. The Honorable Walter Fauntroy is elected to the position in 1971.
1972: Platform of both Democrats and Republicans again support congressional representation for the District of Columbia.
December 24, 1973: Congress passes and President signs District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act-a.k.a. the "Home Rule Act." Provides for popularly elected mayor, 13-member Council with legislative authority over "all rightful subjects of legislation," with restrictions-prohibits taxing federal property, federal exemptions, or income of non-District residents who work in the District; changing height limitation for buildings; altering court system, or changing the criminal code until 1977, after which time any changes could be vetoed by single House of Congress. On all legislative acts of Council, Congress retains right to review and overturn if both houses vote within 30 legislative days. District budget requires approval of Congress and President. President appoints District judges from list of three nominees per position, provided by 7-member Judicial Nominating Commission. A "floating" federal payment for services and tax-exempt status continued. In 1974, District citizens approved the partial home rule charter.
May 7, 1974: Voters of the District of Columbia approve by referendum the District Charter and the establishment of advisory neighborhood commissions. General elections are held for mayor and council on November 5, 1974.
1974: On September 10, 1974, DC holds a primary election, and on November 5, 1974, DC holds general elections for DC Mayor and the DC City Council. Walter E. Washington is elected DC's first mayor under the new system.
1975: On January 2, 1975, the Honorable Walter Washington becomes the first elected mayor of the District of Columbia in more than 100 years. Mayor Washington is also the first black mayor of a major U.S. city. The first elected DC City Council in more than 100 years also takes office.
February 3, 1976: The first election for advisory neighborhood commissioners is held.
1977: Soon after becoming president in 1977, Jimmy Carter established a task force on District matters headed by Vice President Walter Mondale. The task force recommended that Congress enact several measures dealing with the capital's problems. Heading that list was a proposed constitutional amendment to give residents of the city voting representation in both the House and Senate.
August 22, 1978: With overwhelming bipartisan support, both chambers of Congress pass the DC Voting Rights Constitutional Amendment, which would give District residents voting representation in the House and the Senate, by two-thirds majority in each chamber. The amendment will require 38 states to ratify it before it becomes effective. Congress places a seven-year time limit on ratification.
November 4, 1980: District electors approve the District of Columbia Statehood Constitutional Convention of 1979, which became DC law and which called for convening a state constitutional convention.
1981: Although Congress frequently cut the city's budget and packed it with restrictions on how the money could be spent, there were few major battles over local legislation - until this year. Spurred on by special-interest lobbies, a new group of more conservative members of Congress has shown little hesitation in dictating to the city on matters large and small, ranging from how the District hires police officers to where it can dump its sludge. "We are the local government here," said Rep. Philip M. Crane (R-IL), a onetime presidential candidate who led the successful drive earlier this month to overturn the city's sexual assault bill. "Congress is the local government. We have a responsibility to review everything the DC City Council does - everything. People might quarrel with how well we do our job, but there isn't much they can do about it," Crane said. Rep. David Daniel Marriott, a third-term Republican from Salt Lake City, agreed. "The DC City Council isn't speaking for America," Marriott said. "We ought not allow that group of thirteen good souls to make policy for this city. Only Congress has the right to decide what kind of activity we want going on in Washington, DC. If they don't like it," said Marriott, referring to citizens of the District, "they can move to Maryland or Virginia."
November 2, 1982: After the constitutional convention, a Constitution for the State of New Columbia is ratified by District voters.
February 2, 1983: In Young v. IRS, the U.S. Tax Court rejects the taxation without representation argument with respect to U.S. income taxes.
1985: The DC Voting Rights Constitutional Amendment fails. The amendment only receives 16 of the required 38 states for ratification. Delaware is the last state to ratify the amendment.
March 26, 1987: Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) introduced legislation to make the District of Columbia a state after telling members of a House committee that the city's lack of voting representation in Congress "makes a mockery" of the nation's democratic principles.
October 8, 1987: Del. Walter Fauntroy (D-DC) was sharply criticized by Rep. Stan Parris (R-VA) after saying District residents enjoy fewer rights than citizens of the Soviet Union. Fauntroy made the remark in front of the Soviet Embassy while announcing a noon-to-noon vigil in support of DC statehood legislation. Fauntroy said the ten-year-old Soviet Constitution, unlike its U.S. counterpart, gives full voting representation to the citizens of its capital city.
March 23, 1990: President Bush said that he opposes the city's admission to the union as a state and linked his opposition to what he said was the District's funding coming "almost exclusively" from the federal government. The White House later tried to clarify the president's description of DC funding. Only 14 percent of the city's operating budget comes from federal sources; the rest comes from local taxes and fees. "I am opposed to statehood," Bush said at the White House during a question-and-answer session with reporters from throughout the country. "This is a federal city and in my view it should remain that. Its funds come almost exclusively from the federal government. And so, put me down as unsympathetic to that particular cause."
1990: Sharon Pratt Dixon (later Sharon Pratt Kelly) is elected mayor.
1990: A report by The Commission on Budget and Financial Priorities of the District of Columbia, led by Alice Rivlin, senior fellow of The Brookings Institution, reported that DC would go into debt if immediate steps were not taken. The "Rivlin Report" warned that the District had two choices-either bring the budget into balance, or face "drastic and arbitrary cuts in public services, massive layoffs of employees, and emergency arrangements for financial bailout." The report pointed out that while the federal government's presence offered benefits to DC and surrounding areas, the costs were imposed on DC taxpayers. The federal government had straddled DC with liabilities accumulated during their watch under the commissions, including a large debt and a huge unfounded pension liability. The federal government had also increased demands on the municipal system for services such as increased levels of public safety for visiting heads of state, official federal events, and frequent public demonstrations.
In addition, they imposed mandates, such as the number of fire trucks to be in each station. And, the Rivlin Report noted, the District had never been given fiscal autonomy. After the mayor and council agreed on the District's budgetary priorities, the federal Office of Management and Budget, eight committees of Congress, the full Congress, and the president, had to approve the budget. This added between seven to 11 months, at a cost to DC taxpayers of $3 million. In addition, the federal government imposed restrictions on DC, exempting nearly 60 percent of local land from taxation, exempting itself from paying taxes on $20.8 billion worth of property on 41 percent of DC land. Congress also forbade DC from taxing income where it is earned. Since 68 percent of income earned in DC left with employees who live in Virginia and Maryland, DC citizens were stuck with a budget shortfall and consequently the highest taxes in the region. DC was "caught between a rock and a hard place."
1993: The U.S. House of Representatives votes to allow the Delegates from the District of Columbia and the four territories to vote on the floor of the House of Representatives in the Committee of the Whole. However, in cases where the votes of the Delegates are decisive, a second vote, in which the Delegates are not allowed to vote, is required. Previously, the Delegates had been permitted to vote only in House committees.
1993: Tim Cooper, a DC voting representation and local autonomy advocate, forms the Statehood Solidarity Committee and begins the process of taking DC's case to the International Courts through the Organization of American States. His efforts will take over a decade to come to fruition.
November 21, 1993: The 'New Columbia Admission Act' (H.R. 51), a statehood bill for the District of Columbia, which is co-sponsored by 81 members of Congress, is defeated in the House of Representatives by a vote of 153 for the bill and 277 against. In spite of Democratic control of the House, the Senate and the White House, the District of Columbia is denied a part in America's democracy.
1994: Ralph Regula, a Republican representative from Navarre, Ohio, who has made DC affairs one of his specialties in Congress, believes the time is long past to fix the "appalling breach in our democracy" that deprives district residents of voting representation in the House and Senate. His solution is to shrink the district down to a tiny enclave of federal buildings and return the office and residential areas to Maryland, of which the current district was originally a part. It's referred to as "retrocession." "Retrocession would allow DC to use Maryland state facilities and all other state-funded institutions," Regula told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee." "The district could also finally be run like any other major city in the U.S.," he said. "Local government would no longer be able to justify the bloated DC payroll by saying that extra people are needed to fulfill state-like functions."
1995: On the first day of the new session of Congress, the District of Columbia and the four territory's Delegates are terminated from the official U.S. House of Representatives roster. They no longer have voting privileges, even in cases where their votes are non-decisive.
April 17, 1995: President Clinton signed the law creating a Presidential-appointed District of Columbia Financial Control Board and a mayor-appointed Chief Financial Officer.
May 11, 1995: DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton called on President Clinton and congressional leaders yesterday to restore her right to vote in the House before the refusal to grant full representation to residents in the nation's capital becomes an international embarrassment. The United States is violating a U.N. human rights treaty by denying full representation to DC residents, Mrs. Norton, "shadow senator" Jesse Jackson and other statehood advocates said. Other nations, having watched the United States sit in judgment of their human rights records, will be quick to criticize, the statehood backers said. They also said the denial of voting representation is racist. "The world will judge us and the denial of political rights by what they see before them, and what they see before them is black people," Mrs. Norton said. "The appearance stinks."
July 13, 1995: The newly appointed financial control board holds its first public meeting.
1997: Congress passes and President signs National Capital Revitalization and Self Government Act, stripping authority from all locally elected representatives and transferring day-to-day control of 9 of 12 agencies to appointed Control Board. Bill provides $200 million in debt relief, takes back unfunded $5 billion pension liability transferred from federal government to District government in 1974, and takes over Medicaid, courts, and prisons ("state functions").
1998: DC Vote is founded to serve as an educational and advocacy organization whose mission is to secure full voting representation in the Congress for the residents of the District of Columbia.
June 1998: After years of protests that went nowhere and legal battles that ended in disarray, the DC government's top lawyer is set to launch a novel voting rights challenge this week, arguing that denying District residents representation in the Senate and House of Representatives violates the equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution. Corporation Counsel John M. Ferren, a former DC Appeals Court judge, is backed in his legal and political argument by a united DC Council, the respected District law firm of Covington & Burling and a cross-section of carefully assembled supporters from the city's far corners.
2000: By a vote of 2 - 1, a Federal appeals court rejects a case brought by residents of the District of Columbia to gain full voting representation in Congress. The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear the case on appeal.
The city of Washington, DC, adopts a new license plate motto Taxation Without Representation to go on all newly printed license plates for vehicles.
March 23, 2001: The "No Taxation Without Representation Act of 2001" is introduced by Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.). The bill states that notwithstanding any other provision of law, the community of American citizens who are residents of the District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall have full voting representation in the Congress. The bill would also amend the Internal Revenue Code to provide a tax exemption to District of Columbia residents for years during which such residents do not have full voting representation in the Congress.
2001: After four consecutive DC balanced budgets, locally elected officials regained authority over the aspects of local affairs granted in the Home Rule Charter-but they still do not have legislative, judicial, or budgetary autonomy.
2001: Newly elected President George W. Bush demonstrates his opposition to DC voting rights by replacing the "Taxation Without Representation" plates on the presidential limousine with blank District plates. The "Taxation Without Representation plates had been placed on the presidential limo by former President Clinton, who in his last weeks in office received national attention for his support for full enfranchisement for the District.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) introduce the "No Taxation Without Representation Act of 2002" in both chambers of Congress. The act would exempt District residents from paying federal income taxes until given full voting representation in Congress.
The young men and women of the Washington, DC National Guard are the first called to protect our freedom and democracy as the tragedies of September 11 unfold. The DC National Guard are the first deployed to Afghanistan to defend our country's freedom and democracy from terrorism.
2002: DC Vote holds a Tax Day Protest and Bonfire on April 15. With attendance from Delegate Norton, Mayor Anthony Williams, the DC City Council and Shadow Delegation, DC Vote attracts dozens of voting rights groups to participate; hundreds of protestors show up to burn copies of their tax forms; and DC voting rights receive local, national and international coverage.
DC Vote, John Capozzi and DC City Councilmember Phil Mendelson create and pass a bill that will add the slogan No Taxation Without Representation to the DC flag.
Senator Lieberman and Delegate Norton rework the No Taxation Without Representation Act of 2002 to create a piece of legislation that gives DC residents the same voting representation as if they were a state. The bill has two hearings and is unanimously approved by the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. The bill dies in the 107th Congress.
July 19, 2002: District government and civic leaders took their argument for voting representation in Congress to the House, which yesterday held its first hearing in 25 years on an issue that has reemerged among local activists in the past year. "The District's efforts to secure full voting representation have gained important new momentum this year," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), one of the authors of legislation to give the city voting power in Congress. The hearing by the House Government Reform subcommittee on the District, chaired by Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-Md.), gave advocates another venue on Capitol Hill to press their case that it is time to end the disenfranchisement of the city's 572,000 residents.
October 9, 2002: Senate Democrats pushed legislation through committee yesterday to grant the District full voting representation in Congress, the first time in 24 years that the voting rights measure has advanced so far in the Senate. The 9 to 0 vote during the meeting of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which no Republicans attended, approved a bill sponsored by Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.). The vote probably marks as far as the city's century-old quest will advance in the current Congress, but supporters say it is a start.
2003: As the nation prepares for war, Senator Lieberman and Delegate Norton introduce the No Taxation Without Representation Act of 2003 that would give DC residents the same voting representation as if they were a state. Delegate Norton is joined by numerous veterans who urge Congress to bring home the District's soldiers to a full democracy where they have a vote on matters such as war.
The DC Flag Redesign Advisory Committee submits two designs to the DC City Council for the new DC flag.
May 2003: The GAO releases a study that found a vicious cycle in which the heavily indebted District has had to neglect critical infrastructure -- such as schools, roads, bridges and sewers -- and then fight the loss of residents and businesses. The congressional study reported that even if the District government solves all its management problems, the city will face a deepening financial crisis because its tax revenue cannot keep up with the exceptionally high cost of delivering services in the nation's capital.
January 13, 2004: After months of campaigning by DC voting rights groups, the DC City Council and Mayor Anthony Williams, DC holds the first-in-the-nation primary of the 2004 election. Though the results were non-binding, the early primary forced candidates to focus on democracy in DC as they campaigned.
May 2004: Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduces the District of Columbia Fair Federal Compensation Act of 2004 to restore the federal payment from the federal government to the District of Columbia.
June 2004: Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) introduces the District of Columbia Fairness in Representation Act (DC FAIR Act), which would provide DC with a voting member in the House along with a seat for Republican-leaning Utah.
May 2005: Rep. Tom Davis reintroduces the DC FAIR Act to provide the District of Columbia voting representation in the House of Representatives.
This is the second bill introduced in the 109th Congress that addresses DC's lack of voting representation in Congress through passage of simple legislation.
A bill introduced earlier in the year by Senator Lieberman and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the No Taxation Without Representation Act of 2005 (S.195/H.R.398) would give DC full congressional voting representation, including two senators.
March 9, 2007: Rep. Davis and Del. Norton introduce the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2007 (H.R.1433) to provide a voting representative in the House for Washington, DC. The bill also allows for an additional House seat for Utah.
April 19, 2007: The District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2007 (now H.R.1905) passes the House.
May 1, 2007: Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduce a bill in the Senate that would give DC citizens their first-ever voting member in the House. Unlike the House version of the bill which would create an at-large Utah seat, the Senate version includes language to create a four-seat map for Utah.
September 18, 2007: In a procedural vote on the DC House Voting Rights Act (S.1257), a small group of Senators blocked the bill from being debated with a vote of 57 yeas - 42 neas. In order to overcome a filibuster, 60 votes are required. It is the first filibuster of voting rights legislation since the days of segregation.