Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sipster Submission
(Sipster: A member of The Liquid Muse Community. To get the "museletter" email natalie@theliquidmuse.com)

Anthony Dobranski:
DC Resident, Writer, Non-Voter and Bon-Vivant

All this election fever has tempted me off-topic (as Liquid Muse readers may have noted over the last few weeks). Yes, yes, my blog is devoted to cocktails, not politics. Still, I ask you this… What good is a well-made drink if it lacks lively conversation? Journalists, politicians, intellectuals and regular-Joes alike discuss and debate some of the most pertinent issues at their favorite watering holes.

As I am not well-informed as to the ins-and-outs of voting issues in 'the District', my friend (and DC-native) Anthony Dobranski was kind enough to take the time to create this “DC For Dummies” (dummy being me) so I, and those like me, can get a grip on the basic ironies of the nation’s capital being left-out of most elections. Anthony says:

“I hope my fellow citizens enjoyed their vote this year for representatives and senators. Alas, we in DC don't have this right.

The Constitution gives congressional representation to states, and DC is not a state. The District was created by Congress specifically not to be a state, so that no state would have the unfair advantage of hosting the seat of power. From the beginning people understood the inherent weirdness of American citizens without representation in their own Congress, but despite the advocacy of politicians, thinkers, and even several presidents, it took nearly 200 years before the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution gave the District the right to vote for President in 1961. A proposed amendment in the 1970s to give us representatives in Congress was never ratified.

Unlike US territories like Samoa and Guam, however, DC citizens pay all taxes and obey all U.S. laws. Not for nothing do our license plates read "Taxation without Representation."

Worse still, we don't even have control of our local affairs. In the 1970s DC was granted "home rule," the ability to manage day-to-day through a Mayor and a City Council. But our laws exist at the pleasure of Congress. If Congress doesn't like a law we enact, it can void it.

Sometimes this turns into black comedy, as congresspeople micromanage our laws to score points back home. DC has a strict ban on handguns and assault weapons, but every two or three years lawmakers try to repeal it. To date they've failed, usually thanks to senators who don't need such tiny bullet-points on their campaign flyers. (Sometimes the efforts are even protested by conservative think-tanks -- who argue that what's needed is a court decision saying the ban itself is unconstitutional, not some legislator's reversible whim.) In 1998, DC residents voted on medical marijuana legislation. Amazingly, we don't know the result, since Rep. Bob Barr single-handedly blocked the District from allocating money to count the votes. (An effort to have another vote in 2002 was also blocked by Congress.)

The issue isn't the inherent worthiness of either of these initiatives, but that people who don't live here troll for votes by voiding the will of people who do live here. Usually, the worst congressional offenders are the exact same people who go home to rail against meddling by "Washington" in local agendas. But, my Washington has no say at all in their "Washington."

For more info - this gives a good overview; and this lists the various groups trying to change this.”

For more info on Tony and his novel-in-progress click here.

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