District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment

District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment
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The District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that would have given the District of Columbia full representation in the United States Congress, full representation in the Electoral College system, and full participation in the process by which the Constitution is amended.

This proposed amendment was proposed by the Congress on August 22, 1978, but failed to be ratified by 38 states prior to its expiration on August 22, 1985.



Section 1. For purposes of representation in the Congress, election of the President and Vice President, and article V of this Constitution, the District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall be treated as though it were a State.

Section 2. The exercise of the rights and powers conferred under this article shall be by the people of the District constituting the seat of government, and as shall be provided by the Congress.

Section 3. The twenty-third article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 4. This article shall be inoperative, unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.[1]


Representative Don Edwards of California proposed House Joint Resolution 554 in the 95th Congress. The United States House of Representatives passed it on March 2, 1978, by a 289-127 vote, with 18 not voting.[2] The United States Senate passed it on August 22, 1978, by a 67-32 vote, with 1 not voting.[3] With that, the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment was offered to the state legislatures for consideration. The Congress, via Section 4 of the proposed amendment, required ratification by three-fourths of the states to be completed within seven years following its passage by the Congress (i.e., August 22, 1985) in order for it to become part of the Constitution.[4]

In the end, the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment received 16 ratifications, and so failed to be adopted because it had not been ratified by at least 38 state legislatures.

Effects if it had been adopted

Had it been adopted, this proposed amendment would have repealed the Twenty-third Amendment. The Twenty-third Amendment does not allow the District of Columbia to have more electoral votes "than the least populous State," nor does it grant Washington, D.C. any role in the election of a President by the House of Representatives (or that of the Vice President by the Senate). In contrast, this proposed amendment would have given Washington, D.C. full representation in both houses of the Congress in addition to full participation in the Electoral College. The proposed amendment would have also allowed the Council of the District of Columbia, the Congress, or the people of Washington D.C. (depending on how this proposed amendment would have been interpreted) to decide whether to ratify any proposed amendment to the Constitution, or to apply to the Congress for a convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution, just as a state's legislature can pursuant to the Constitutional amendment process.

The amendment would neither have made Washington, D.C. a state, nor affected the Congress' authority over it.

Response of the state legislatures

Requiring the approvals of lawmakers in at least 38 of the 50 states, the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment was ratified by the legislatures of only the following 16 states:

  1. New Jersey on September 11, 1978
  2. Michigan on December 13, 1978
  3. Ohio on December 21, 1978
  4. Minnesota on March 19, 1979
  5. Massachusetts on March 19, 1979
  6. Connecticut on April 11, 1979
  7. Wisconsin on November 1, 1979
  8. Maryland on March 19, 1980
  9. Hawaii on April 17, 1980
  10. Oregon on July 6, 1981
  11. Maine on February 16, 1983
  12. West Virginia on February 23, 1983
  13. Rhode Island on May 13, 1983
  14. Iowa on January 19, 1984
  15. Louisiana on June 24, 1984
  16. Delaware on June 28, 1984

See also


  1. ^ "Constitutional Amendments Not Ratified". United States House of Representatives. http://www.house.gov/house/Amendnotrat.shtml. Retrieved 2007-09-30. 
  2. ^ 124 Congressional Record 5272-5273
  3. ^ 124 Congressional Record 27260
  4. ^ In Dillon v. Gloss, 256 U.S. 368 (1921), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Congress's authority to impose time limits on ratification.

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