No Thanks, Newt. Eight Is Enough

April 21, 1995

Speaker Newt Gingrich has ordered a study of the feasibility of District of Columbia residents voting in Maryland's congressional races. D.C. would not actually become a part of Maryland, but would elect a representative to the House from what would be called the Ninth Congressional District of Maryland. The D.C. voters could also vote in Maryland elections of U.S. senators. We think we speak on behalf of all of his fellow Republicans in the state and of most Democrats, when we say, thanks, Newt, but no thanks. Eight is enough.

Maryland Republicans oppose this for the most obvious reason. Democrats outnumber Republicans among the district's registered voters by 10 to 1. Maryland's two senators, both Democrats and both Baltimoreans, oppose it for the second most obvious reason. It would shift the political center of gravity away from central Maryland. Not only that -- but to the advantage of non-Marylanders.

We don't believe Speaker Gingrich's brains trust can come up with a statutory method of giving district residents a voice in Congress, as a semi-part of Maryland or any other way. Other members of Congress interested in this issue in recent years have been told by legal experts at the Library of Congress and elsewhere that it would take a constitutional amendment. And that is not likely.

In 1978 Congress sent an amendment to the states that would have given the district a representative and two senators. When the time limit for ratification expired in 1985, only 16 of the necessary 38 states had approved. A watered down version -- House seat but no Senate seat -- is under consideration now by some sympathetic senators. We doubt it would fare much better in the states.

In 1978, one of the District of Columbia's arguments for full voting rights in Congress was that it was more populous than 10 states. Its population was 756,000. Today it's only 570,000. Only two states have fewer residents. D.C. residents have been "voting with their feet" on moving to Maryland and Virginia, where they can vote with their ballots, not only for members of Congress but for state legislators and governors as well.

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