March 31, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

DC Vote Advocates Have Little to Cheer

Leaders Say They Have To Get More ‘Radical’

File Photo

At a Tuesday night holiday party at their modest Dupont Circle headquarters, employees and guests of the advocacy group DC Vote toasted the evening with wines labeled Statehood, A Vote in Congress and I Demand the Vote.

Guests laughed about the double entendre, asking one another, Would you like A Vote in Congress? Would you like Statehood?

But advocates for full voting rights in Washington, D.C., dont have much to celebrate.

With sizable Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, their agenda rose in the 111th Congress only to be shot down.

It looked like they were going to be the golden years of the D.C. democracy movement, DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka said. We came to this Congress with modest but important steps to full citizenship for D.C. residents and we were slapped down.

Prospects for full voting rights for D.C.s Congressional representative died after gun advocates attached an amendment to the bill that would have barred the District from prohibiting people from carrying guns in public.

We dont have any illusions about D.C. voting rights being able to move in this next Congress, at least in the House, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said.

Advocates are also concerned that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) a stalwart opponent of D.C. autonomy may be installed as head of the Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that deals with the District.

Still, advocates are infused with a steely resolve, Zherka said, shelving his inches-thick folder of new protest ideas.

Up until now, weve done fairly traditional advocacy efforts, and theyve taken us relatively far but were not sufficient to create urgency, he said. I think the lesson weve learned is that its going to take a lot more. Its going to take, really, over time, a radicalization of the movement.

In the past, advocates paired with Utah Republicans to hammer out a deal that would give the District a voting Representative and Utah another. But after the 2010 census numbers are released, Utah is expected to gain another Representative in Congress anyway. Zherka and Norton said another state that loses seats in Congress or narrowly misses out on gaining a Representative could be a partner for a similar deal in the future.

But the movement may have to take a few steps back before it can move forward.

Theyve already compromised on a bill to allow the District and the territories to place one statue each in the Capitols Statuary Hall, opting to bring the Republican version to the floor this week instead of the Democratic version, which would have allowed the District to have two statues.

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