SCOTUS declines case asking for DC voting representation

Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool

Back in 2018, a group of residents of the District of Columbia went to court to challenge the inability of people living in the District to have a voting representative in the House of Representatives. This was a rather unique approach that differed from ongoing efforts to create a 51st state out of most of DC. While it wasn’t all that clearly spelled out, what the plaintiffs seemed to be angling for was a court order allowing DC’s nonvoting representative ( currently Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton) to vote on legislation. In March of last year, a three-judge district court panel ruled against them citing both Supreme Court precedent and the Constitution itself. The plaintiffs appealed, but last night the Supreme Court declined to take up the case and allowed the lower court’s decision to stand, so that appears to be the end of the latest effort in this area. (This Hill)

The Supreme Court on Monday turned away an appeal by Washington, D.C., residents over their lack of voting rights in Congress.

The justices’ move affirmed a lower court ruling that held that D.C. residents are not entitled to voting representation in the U.S. House.

In a brief unsigned order Monday, the justices indicated their ruling was based on a Supreme Court decision from more than two decades ago that found that Washingtonians do not have a constitutional right to a vote in Congress.

The unsigned statement from the court also cited SCOTUS precedent from a previous ruling that found DC residents do not have a constitutional right to a voting representative in Congress. But in addition to that, Thomas and Gorsuch opined that they would have passed on the case anyway because the court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the matter. (Perhaps it’s just me, but you rarely hear the Supremes saying they lack jurisdiction on something like this.)

The case was always considered dubious. In fact, both the Trump and Biden administrations came out against the plaintiffs in a rare show of bipartisanship. The plaintiffs attempted to claim that American citizens living overseas and still being able to vote are proof that DC residents should receive the same treatment. But Americans living overseas receive absentee ballots from the state they last lived in, so technically they are still voting “in a state” and not in a district lacking the same relationship with Congress.

Also, as the courts have repeatedly pointed out, the Consitution makes no specific reference to residents of the nation’s Capital voting in elections or having representation. Those rights are set forth for the several states.

In the end, of course, this was never really a case about people lacking representation in Congress. It was yet another effort organized by Democrats to create another permanent seat for their party in Congress. (Because DC is overwhelmingly comprised of registered Democrats.) It’s the same reason they continue to push so hard for DC statehood. That would land them two permanent seats in the Senate, bringing them closer to cementing a permanent majority in the upper chamber.

Real resolutions to the question of having voting representatives are available, but liberals don’t want to discuss them. As others have previously suggested, the District could give back the land with residential areas to the states that originally surrendered it, keeping only the area needed for the actual federal buildings. Also, it’s worth noting that nobody working in DC would have to commute more than ten miles if they lived just over the border in one of the adjoining states. If you really want a voting representative in Congress, the solution is only a short U-Haul ride away.

But those solutions wouldn’t give the Democrats any additional permanent seats. As such, you won’t be seeing any activist pushing ideas like that. For now, at least, it seems like this issue will be returning to the back burner.