Georgetown students and faculty joined hundreds of Washington, D.C. residents and public officials on Capitol Hill yesterday to demonstrate their support for full District voting rights in Congress.

Accompanied by Scott Fleming, assistant to the university president for federal relations, five members of the GU College Democrats listened to speeches from noted public officials including Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty.

The event, Congress Day 2007, was organized by the activist group DC Vote to build support for a bill introduced by Norton at the beginning of the year that would give the District a voting member of the House. The District currently sends one non-voting member to the House.

Norton opened the ceremony by thanking the 500 people present for “coming to get the vote that has been due . for two centuries.”

She urged activists to keep in mind the memory of D.C. residents who lost their lives in the Iraq war, a call echoed by Rep. Tom Davis (D-Va.) later in the day. Davis, who co-sponsored the Norton bill, said that D.C. residents have sacrificed their lives bringing democracy elsewhere, but “right here in the heart of the free world . [we] don’t get a vote in Congress.”

Norton also expressed her appreciation to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who in a meeting with Fenty and Norton after the rally confirmed her “determination to bring the bill forward as soon as possible,” according to a press release issued by Norton’s office.

Fenty, stepping up to the podium as members of the crowd chanted, “Free D.C.,” also offered his strong support for the legislation and said that acquiring D.C. voting rights is one of his highest priorities.

“I really do believe that the residents of D.C. are now more passionate and more optimistic that we are going to get our voting rights, and we’re going to get them soon,” Fenty said. “It’s fundamental, it’s moral, it’s what this country was founded on.”

After the speeches, Georgetown students and other citizen activists walked the halls of the congressional office buildings and distributed individually signed letters to members of Congress, over 300 of which were signed by Georgetown students and one of which was written by University President John DeGioia.

In his letter to Pelosi and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House minority leader, DeGioia said, “As a university located in the nation’s capital, we have a deep commitment to this legislation. There are fundamental issues of equity that [it] would address.”

The Georgetown University Legislative Advocates, GUSA, GU College Republicans and the College Democrats have been collaborating to raise student interest in D.C.’s voting rights, which included composing and collecting the letters from students, College Democrats President Or Skolnik (COL ’08) said.

Fleming emphasized that granting D.C. full voting rights is a bipartisan issue that both the College Republicans and the College Democrats recognize as important. The legislation attempts to overcome bipartisan differences by balancing D.C.’s new House seat, which would most likely elect a Democrat, with an additional seat for Utah, a strongly Republican state, Fleming said.

Caitlin Ryan (SFS ’10) and Michael Karno (SFS ’10), both members of the College Democrats, said that they see D.C.’s lack of full voting privileges as an unfair condition that needs to be corrected.

“D.C. deserves representation, too,” Ryan said. “That’s why I’m here.”

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