Saturday, July 29, 2006

The United Nations chides the U.S. for D.C.'s lack of votes in Congress

By Nancy Jane Moore

In a report issued by a human rights committee, the United Nations said Washington, D.C.'s lack of voting rights in Congress violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Imagine that: Not allowing your citizens to vote is considered wrong.

About 160 countries have ratified this treaty, including the U.S. in 1992. Apparently, though, the U.S. didn't really mean it when it, since nothing has been done about D.C. voting rights in the last 14 years.

According to The Washington Post article on the action, D.C.'s lack of voting representation was included in a report that also addresses secret prisons for those accused of terrorism, torture, and U.S. treatment of the poor and homeless -- a pretty sorry list of accomplishments for a country that touts itself as a democratic leader.

It's both gratifying and embarrassing to have the U.N. notice that we in Washington, D.C., don't have the same legal representation as other U.S. citizens. I'm glad someone besides those of us who live here has pointed out the problem, but it is embarrassing for the rest of the world to be made aware that the citizens of the Nation's Capital have no say in how the government is run.

Of course, the U.S. government immediately went on the defensive. The Post quotes from a letter by Warren Tichenor, who represents the U.S. at the U.N. in Geneva:
"The position of the District . . . is not a human rights violation; it is rather a justifiable and important aspect of the federal system of government freely chosen by citizens of the United States."
I guarantee you, Mr. Tichenor, the citizens of the District of Columbia do not consider our lack of votes to be either justifiable or an important part of our federal system. And if Congress would let us freely choose, we'd opt for representation.

As our nonvoting Delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, puts it in the Post article:
"We make such a big issue of everybody else's human rights record. We now have to be listed as one of the great hypocrites of the world."

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