We should always be wary when the Democrats and Republicans enter into some kind of unholy alliance.

Which is why you know something is awry with H.R. 328, more commonly known as “The D.C. Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act.” Both the College Democrats and the College Republicans (not to mention their counterparts in Congress) have put their support behind the bill. The would-be Jack Abramoffs at Georgetown University Legislative Advocates are on board. Even GUSA decided to take a break from not doing anything to support the cause.

With such great groups backing it, what’s not to love?

The stated aim of the bill is certainly worthy. By adding an extra seat in the House of Representatives and granting the District of Columbia long sought-after representation, H.R. 328 attempts to correct the shameful denial of basic voting rights to citizens of the nation’s capital. It goes back to the first principles emblazoned in the heart of every American – each citizen should have a say in the way he or she is governed. Even the reactionary Republican former congressman Jack Kemp understands the importance of D.C. voting rights – they are necessary “to complete the unfinished business of American democracy.”

So how could a bill with such worthy aims and widespread support be suspect? There are certainly questions about the scope of the bill. Some worry that giving D.C. a vote in the House but not the Senate will hurt the possibility of the District ever attaining full voting rights. This is a valid concern, but not a reason to reject the idea. More troubling is the politicized provision granting the state of Utah an extra Representative in Congress.

In order to build support for the bill, lawmakers have “balanced” the additional D.C. representative by granting an additional vote to Utah. The advocacy group DC Vote succinctly describes the political calculation:

“Utah is a historically Republican state. The District of Columbia has historically voted Democratic. Thus, the bill is viewed as politically neutral, vote-neutral and nonpartisan, not favoring one political party over another.”

In a Missouri Compromise-esque move, Congress has decided to trade vote for vote when adding more seats in the House. Like the 1820s, where the accession of each “free state” was matched by a “slave state” to maintain a precarious balance in the Senate, H.R. 328 expands democracy at an unreasonable cost.

To be fair, I have nothing against Utah. Even though its population is incomprehensibly conservative, they too deserve representation. Moreover, Utah was extremely close to getting an additional vote in the last census. The 2010 census will likely give Utah the extra vote anyway, so why oppose it?

H.R. 328’s flaw doesn’t lie in its consequences. Rather, we should oppose the bill because of its skewed priorities. Congress falters by losing sight of the reason for giving D.C. the vote: democracy itself. The representation of about a half a million D.C. residents shouldn’t be a political chit, traded in a tit-for-tat political game. The right to vote for one’s representatives is fundamental to our republican form of government. That any member of Congress, regardless of home state or political affiliation, could deny that right to a fellow citizen should be shocking to everyone who believes in our form of government.

This bill mocks and trivializes the very meaning of democracy. The fundamental right to vote must be absolute, not the product of political calculation. I urge the students of Georgetown to write their representatives in favor of expanding D.C. voting rights – but not with H.R. 328. Working together, we can secure the rights of District voters without the baggage – and improve our democracy in the process.

Cameron O’Bannon is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and an assistant opinion editor for THE HOYA.

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