I have lived in Washington, D.C., for my entire life. I was born at Georgetown University Hospital and grew up near Chevy Chase, just 15 minutes away from where roughly 6,000 Georgetown undergrads call the Hilltop their home. And yet I get the idea that most Hoyas don’t fully understand the issue of D.C. voting rights.

By proclamation of George Washington, a Federal District was carved out of Maryland and Virginia in 1791. Pierre L’Enfant and, later, Benjamin Banneker oversaw construction of the district, which would become Washington, D.C.

Our city became the federal capital in 1800, when roughly 10,000 people resided there.

In 1801, the Organic Act gave Congress jurisdiction over our city and our voting rights were, for the most part, stripped.

Almost eight decades later, in the Organic Act of 1878, Congress declared itself the District’s legislature – a practice that lasted until 1967.

Six hundred and thirty-five D.C. citizens died in World War I, and another 3,575 were killed in World War II. Still more were killed in Korea and Vietnam.

It was not until 1961, following the ratification of the 23rd Amendment, that citizens of our city were allowed to vote for president. Then in 1971, the District was given its first non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives.

On Nov. 5, 1974, D.C. was finally allowed to elect its own mayor for the first time, choosing Walter Washington.

The D.C. City Council followed, and began making many of the decisions about how our city is run that had previously been made by representatives from other states.

In 1993, the House allowed the District’s delegate to cast non-decisive votes in committee, but this “privilege” was taken away when the Republicans took over Congress in 1995.

Since that time, numerous bills promoting full voting rights and partial voting rights have been proposed in Congress, and all have been defeated.

This history may not seem that interesting to most, but I write about it to show that our path to voting rights has been painfully slow.

In his viewpoint on H.R. 328, the latest attempt to confer voting rights on the District, Cameron O’Bannon writes that “we should oppose the bill because of its skewed priorities” (“Don’t Play Politics With District Vote,” The Hoya, Feb. 9, 2007, A3). He says that D.C. should get the vote in the interest of democracy and not in a political give-and-take that would give a new House seat to Utah. His heart is in the right place, and if it were up to me, I would like D.C. to be given the vote without political maneuvering.

I would like our city to have two senators and be given statehood. In time, perhaps, that will happen, but probably not in my lifetime. H.R. 328 is without a doubt the result of a compromise, but it’s a compromise I’m willing to live with. Our city cannot wait any longer for Congress to do what is necessary to establish representation – something that should be a natural right of every citizen.

There are nearly 600,000 residents living in the District of Columbia, many of whom have lived here for their entire lives, and some of whom have lived here long enough to remember when they couldn’t vote for president or to elect their mayor. District citizens reside in the nation’s capital; they pay taxes and they have fought and died in every war in which the United States has fought. Yet we are still treated as second-class citizens.

H.R. 328 is supported by DC Vote, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and a host of lawmakers – both Democrats and Republicans. We cannot wait for another opportunity to arise, because that opportunity may be years or even decades away, and the residents of D.C. deserve a representative now.

Please write to your congressperson and tell them to support H.R. 328, or get involved with DC Vote by logging onto their Web site at http://www.dcvote.org.

Benjamin Naylor is a senior in the College.

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