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Twenty-Third Amendment


The Twenty-third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

Section 1. The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:

A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.

Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Twenty-third Amendment was proposed on June 16, 1960, and ratified on March 29, 1961. The amendment rectified an omission in the Constitution that prevented residents of the District of Columbia from voting in presidential elections.

Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to accept land from the states and administer it as the seat of national government. The District of Columbia was organized under this provision from land given to the federal government by Virginia and Maryland.

The government of the city of Washington and the District of Columbia has been dominated by Congress for most of the district's history. Congress is empowered by Article I to exercise exclusive authority over the seat of government. In the 1820s Congress allowed citizens of the district to vote for a mayor and city council. In 1871 Congress created a territorial form of government for the district. All the officials, including a legislative assembly, were appointed by the president. This system was abandoned in 1874, when Congress reestablished direct control over the city government.

From the 1870s until 1961, residents of the district were denied all rights to vote. Though residents paid federal and local taxes and were drafted into the military services, they could not vote. The Twenty-third Amendment gave district residents the right to vote for president. Under the amendment the number of the district's electors cannot exceed that of the state with the smallest population. In practice, this means that the district elects three presidential electors.

The amendment did not address the issue of representation in Congress. Later, a constitutional amendment that would have given residents the right to vote for congressional representatives was proposed, but it failed to win ratification. In 1970 Congress created the position of nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives, to be elected by the district's residents.

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