Exercising our Rights
Last weekend, like many citizens in our region, I decided to vote early. In Maryland this was the first opportunity to early vote in a presidential election. I’ve been going to vote since I was about 7-years old – my mother always took me with her to the polls in Chicago. She would let me watch her fill out her paper ballot or pull the levers on the machines that were often in the polling places. If I had questions, she readily answered them. And while I certainly didn’t understand all of her explanations, she made it very plain that voting was a civic right that many people had died to help give us – every two years for congressional representatives, every six years for senators, and every four years for the president of the United States.
And as I stood there last weekend I began to ask myself, ‘how would I feel about voting if in fact I knew my vote didn’t count in the legislative process?’ How would I feel if I stood in line for 90 minutes to participate in my civic duty, knowing my selected congressional representative’s voice could be marginalized by the voices from other states in the union? I wondered how must the folks standing in the long lines in the District of Columbia feel casting their vote, and recognizing that the votes of those in Ohio may actually have more bearing on their local autonomy than the voice of their very own Congresswoman. And I wondered what a D.C. mother was telling her little girl about the voting process and what it meant to her and her future. Those thoughts saddened and angered me and it became crystal clear that the fight for DC voting rights is more relevant now than ever. It also became clear that the fight must be won outside of the District of Columbia.
Those of us living in Maryland and Virginia must speak up and question those that don’t see this as a fight worth fighting. We must inform our family members in Tennessee, Georgia, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, and other states across the country that more than 600,000 of our fellow citizens are denied voting representation in Congress. It seems that in the federal city what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander. Local autonomy is fundamental for the folks in Florida, but a luxury for the people of the District of Columbia. I know that some believe the cause of voting rights is a lost one not worth the energy and effort expended by DC Vote and other local advocates. But for me, as a local community foundation serving the entire region, the time is long overdue for every citizen of the region to have equal access to the legislative process that makes this country so great. I hope each of you reading this will make it a point to, at a minimum, let someone outside of this region know that taxation without representation is alive and well in the District of Columbia. The time has come to put a swift end to the inequality facing our fellow citizens.