District of Columbia (Update)

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After nearly two hundred years since assuming exclusive jurisdiction over the District of Columbia, Congress continues to tinker with the governmental structure of the district and to disfranchise its citizens.

The 1990s witnessed the effective end of a twenty-year experiment with home rule in the district. A series of fiscal and management crises, coupled with remarkably high crime rates, led Congress to pass legislation creating a "control board" to oversee the district's governance. Its five members appointed by the President, the control board assumed most of the powers of the elected mayor and city council.

The institution of the control board further diluted the limited opportunities for self-government enjoyed by the district's citizens. Although the twenty-third amendment granted the district a voice in the electoral college, district citizens do not have full representation in Congress. (They have a delegate in the U.S. house of representatives who can vote in committee, but not on the final passage of legislation.) With the end of home rule, the over 500,000 citizens of the district have no formal say in legislation governing their communities.

The disfranchisement of district citizens contravenes the famous rallying principle of the american revolution, "No taxation without representation." Yet, despite scholars' sound constitutional arguments for extending voting rights to district citizens based on the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment, neither the courts nor the political branches show any inclination to establish a truly republican form of government in the district.

Adam Winkler

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District of Columbia (Update)

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