Supreme Court Votes No on D.C. Voter Representation

By Jordan Williams

On Monday, Oct. 4, the Supreme Court struck down a case that would have granted District of Columbia (D.C.) residents the right to vote for representatives in Congress. The case was called CASTANON v. United States, Dist. Court, Dist. of Columbia 2020. In this case, the plaintiffs argued that D.C. residents were entitled to representation by virtue of being U.S. citizens who have residency in other states. Their argument did not include a right to statehood, but rather a right to vote for representatives of states that they resided in the past before they moved to D.C. For example, a Maryland resident who goes to D.C. should be allowed to vote for Maryland representatives, according to the plaintiff’s argument. “They cited laws that have entitled residents of other federal enclaves or U.S. citizens living overseas to vote even though they do not currently reside in states, saying the same logic should apply to residents of D.C.,” said the Washington Post. 

The Court sided against the plaintiffs, citing Supreme Court precedent from Adams v. Clinton 2000, which stated that D.C. residents could not vote for representatives because they do not reside in a state. While the decision dealt a blow to the D.C. activists, it is ultimately insignificant to the overall movement. The Supreme Court ruling does not prevent Congress from passing a law to give D.C. a vote in Congress. Indeed, with a 6-3 Conservative majority in the Supreme Court, taking the fight to Congress remains the most promising option towards representation in the District. The Court’s decision does not make any claim on the constitutionality of D.C. statehood, which means that Congress most likely has the constitutional ability to make D.C. the 51st state through a vote.

This is easier said than done; D.C. activists have been trying to achieve statehood for decades. In order for D.C. to become a state, a bill would have to pass in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Democrats in Congress argue that D.C. residents have the right to federal representation by virtue of paying federal taxes, while Republicans argue that D.C. would be an abnormal state and push the boundaries of what statehood means. If D.C. were to join the 50 states, it would be the smallest in terms of territory and have the third lowest population.

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