Norton Says D.C. Voting Seat in House Now Possible

Posted November 5, 2008 at 2:16pm

With Democrats gaining several seats in the Senate, voting rights advocates are optimistic that the District finally will get a voting seat in the House, and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) announced Wednesday she would introduce a bill as soon as possible.

“I will seek the earliest vote in both the House and Senate,” Norton said in a press release. “The vote for D.C. residents should have been granted 209 years ago as the framers of the Constitution intended. Two centuries of waiting has been disgraceful. We must insist on no more delay, particularly now that we have the votes.”

The D.C. Voting Rights Act passed the House in the 110th Congress, bringing the District closer than ever to gaining a voting seat in the House. But the bill fell three votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, with most Republicans voting against it.

But on Wednesday, Norton predicted that the Senate’s new makeup would ensure 63 votes for the bill. She pointed to the fact that at least five Senate Republicans who voted against the bill were replaced by Democrats.

Norton also noted that the bill lost none of its Republican support. Only two of the Republicans who supported the bill were up for re-election — Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) won her race while Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.) is in a dead heat with comedian Al Franken (D), who would also support the bill.

Voting rights advocates also celebrated the Democratic gains in the Senate and the possibility of nearing an end to a long-fought battle for voting representation.

“For the first time in a generation, we may have enough votes to secure passage and enactment of DC voting rights legislation,” DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka said in a statement. “However, we have a lot of work to do to educate new members of the 111th Congress and to ensure that this critical issue gets priority consideration.”

It’s unclear how closely a bill introduced in the 111th Congress would resemble the Voting Rights Act, which also gave the Republican-leaning Utah a seat. Such a deal might hold less draw for Republicans now, since the 2010 Census is expected to create that seat anyway.

Norton said she is contemplating whether to change the bill, but that it is the “first bill I’m going to introduce, and I’m going to ask the Speaker to give it the earliest possible consideration.”