Obama’s SCOTUS Appointee Opposed Congressional Representation For D.C.

But what’s voting rights among friends, amirite?

Locals will remember one of Garland’s most famous rulings: the 2-1 decision against D.C. in the Alexander v. Daley case in March 2000, which sought to extend full voting rights in Congress to District residents. The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling without a hearing seven months later.

Garland and Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly fashioned their ruling along narrow lines, arguing that the case was a political problem instead of a constitutional one.

And the judicial logic, such as it was, is interesting (boldface mine):

The Justice Department argued for preserving the status quo, pointing to language in the Constitution that calls for the election of representatives by people from the “states.” Because the District is not a state, its residents do not have a constitutional right to select a voting representative in Congress, the Justice Department said.

The majority opinion sided with that interpretation. It was written by Merrick B. Garland, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, of U.S. District Court. In the dissent, Senior U.S. District Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer wrote that his colleagues were too technical in their reading of the word “states” and that he found nothing in the Constitution that says people living in the seat of government should have no voting representation in Congress.

The majority, including Garland were “sympathetic”, so it’s all good.

I realize a lot of people with fantasies of playing eleven dimensional chess view this as a clever political move. But the party which has D.C. statehood in its platform should be able to find a raging centrist who didn’t oppose full Congressional representation for the District’s citizens. As former mayor–and definitely not a radical firebrand–Anthony Williams put it:

Over the last 200 years, residents of the District of Columbia have fought in nine wars and paid billions of dollars in federal taxes…. We have marched and sacrificed to help extend democratic freedoms to people in faraway lands as well as here at home. Yet in our nation’s capital–the epicenter of democracy–we lack the most fundamental democratic right of all: the right to vote.

Admittedly, this is completely consistent with Obama being willing to negotiate away D.C.’s abortion funding policies* (“John, I’ll give you D.C. abortions.“).

In an election year where protecting voting rights is an issue, we have to do better.

Related: He’s also pretty heartless on criminal justice issues.

*Congress has the ability to overturn any legislation D.C. passes, so they will often inflict their political opinions on D.C. I suppose this is progress from when D.C. was first allowed to elect its own mayor, and Congressman McMillan sent the black winner a truck full of watermelons.

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1 Response to Obama’s SCOTUS Appointee Opposed Congressional Representation For D.C.

  1. harrync says:

    The founders pretty clearly intended that the capitol NOT be in a “state”. Maybe they should have allowed the federal district to elect senators and a congressperson, but they did not choose to do so. All Garland did was follow the law, even if he did not like it. I would think that is what we would want in an lower court judge.

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