Residents of the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico deserve federal voting rights

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives Thursday passed legislation that would make the District of Columbia America’s 51st state. We sympathize with the push, but this is not the best way to right a huge wrong now.

It’s ironic indeed that D.C. statehood got through the House, where members represent districts of roughly equal population, and is sure to fall flat on its face in the Senate. Ironic why? Because the Senate is anti-democratic design by design, since the Founders insisted that in our union of states, each one should get two voices and two votes regardless of size. A body in which 600,000-person Wyoming and Vermont already wield the same clout as 40 million-person California, 30 million-person Texas and 19 million-person New York ought to be more willing than the House, not less, to extending statehood status to a city of 700,000. The reason it isn’t is, of course, pure politics: Republicans are loath to give Democrats what would amount to a permanent edge in what is now an evenly divided body.

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Unfortunately, as nice as it would be to start unskewing a legislative body where Democrats represent at least 20 million more people than their Republican counterparts, it pains us to argue that the systemic cure to a deeply unrepresentative body is giving one more very small state outsize power.

Yes, the people of D.C. pay their taxes and share the rights and responsibilities of being American; it is an ongoing crime against democracy to deny them representation in Congress. The better way to do that is to make them residents of Maryland, Virginia or a combination of the two for the purposes of federal elections.

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Meanwhile, there are 3 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico who have been disrespected by the federal government for longer and in much more serious ways than the people of D.C. have been. If granted statehood, Puerto Rico would be a medium-size U.S. state. In other words, the cries for fairness from the Caribbean island are louder and stronger than they are from the Potomac. Hear them first.

— New York Daily News

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