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Does Washington DC Have A Governor, Senators and Representatives?

Washington, D.C., residents can vote in the presidential elections, but not in most federal elections.
Washington, D.C., is considered more of a city than a state.
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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2014
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Washington DC is the capital city of the United States and is under the total jurisdiction of the United States Congress. As the District of Columbia, it is a federal district rather than a state, and has different governmental rules than either the 50 states in the nation, and US-governed territories such as Guam. A vocal group of people believe that citizens who live there are not treated as being equal to state citizens, as their rights and representation in Congress are different. It has no governor or senators, and its representative has no vote in the House.

The District of Columbia is really considered a city, rather than a state. As such, it has a mayor rather than a governor. Originally, the city was run by federally-appointed overseers, with the first group appointed by President George Washington in 1790. In 1973, the United States passed the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, which created mayoral elections and gave some power over local issues to the mayor and city council. The United States Congress still retains ultimate authority over the District, and can still overturn any mayoral or council decisions.

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While Washington DC does not have any senators, it does have a non-voting member of the House of Representatives. Like Puerto Rico and Guam representatives, this elected official can sit on committees, lobby for or introduce legislature, and join floor debates, but he or she cannot vote. Despite their lack of representation in Congress, citizens of the District are subject to all federal laws. This leads many to question the position of DC citizens, as other US territories are not subject to law without representation.

The US Capitol building.

Voting rights for Washington DC citizens are different than those for states. Until the Twenty-Third Amendment to the US Constitution was passed in 1961, DC residents could not vote in any federal election, including for presidency. While the law made an exemption for presidential elections, people who live in the District still cannot vote in most federal elections. The justification for the voting laws is complicated, but experts suggest that it is essential that the seat of federal government remain neutral, lest partisan politics become an even larger problem.

Many people feel that DC citizens should be afforded the same voting rights as any US citizen, including being able to send voting delegates to Congress. Some argue that the District should become a separate state, while others believe it should be integrated into Virginia or Maryland. Toward the efforts of DC statehood, the city has elected two “shadow” senators and a representative since 1978. These officials are meant to lobby for statehood but are not recognized by Congress and should not be confused with the non-voting representative.

George Washington appointed federal overseers to run Washington, D.C., in 1790.

The election and voting process in Washington DC is a confusing and complicated situation that many feel is to the detriment of the city. Some argue that the little power granted to the mayor, council, and non-voting representative are not enough to ensure the safety or well-being of the area. As Congress seems to be avoiding the issue of DC statehood, it is uncertain whether permanent residents of the District will ever be granted rights comparable to other US citizens.

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anon296613
Post 10

I think that the whole idea of Washington D.C. becoming a state is totally absurd. Who cares? They get to vote for the United States President, that's what really matters? Right?

koali
Post 9

Yes they should have representation. This isn't 1790. It's 2012.

anon292652
Post 7

The people of DC should absolutely be represented in both house and Senate. Someone should work from the ground up to establish their city as a state. It would have to start in order to be followed through. It is ridiculous these citizens are excluded, which is what it is, because of the founding in 1790. Have you ever seen those paintings of it in 1790? Not quite what it is now. The capitol and government buildings seem like a backdrop to the rest of the real life. Keep, of course, the 50 states' representatives and their families out of the count.

anon273653
Post 5

A city of 600,000 should be a state? Really? DC was created as a "state neutral" venue for national politics. Some wanted New York as it already was the business and finance center, while the southern, agricultural interests did not want the balance of power tipped in that direction.

What would the "state" interests of Washington DC be? How much of the land would need to remain federal in any case? How many residents work at federal facilities/parks/police, etc.? What "state" issues does a city have? What would the interests of its senators and representatives be?

Remaining neutral is not an "old argument;" it is the reason it was created in the first place. They have the same representation as US citizens in any city, and they are not in a state, so do not have state representation.

D.C. was built as the nation's capital, and represents the entire nation. It is a special case that was set in place to facilitate unity and smoother working of the nation. People living there should be proud to be a part of it.

anon131387
Post 4

D.C. was supposed to be separate and neutral by design. The federal government's role, after all, is to be an agent to the states, not the other way around.

To make D.C. a state, in fact, would be usurping the Constitution on many levels by granting the powers of statehood. Read the Constitution and understand why no is the only possible answer for a free people.

arod2b42
Post 3

@Leonidas226

I think the best solution for helping DC citizens rights is an increased awareness and care among the general voting public.

Leonidas226
Post 2

Throughout history a negligence or ignorance on the part of the leadership of a country due to their "comfort" in their power has led to a necessarily strong amount of political action. Unfortunately, such action has often turned sour in the form or rioting. Washington may one day have to face the reality of citizens rights in that "city" due to upset members of its system.

latte31
Post 1

I think that the city should actually become a state because they should have the same representation as those throughout the country.

Right now they can only vote for Mayor of Washington D.C. and for President of the United States. They should have members of the House of Representatives to represent the area.

The old argument that they did not want any state to house the capital so it could be neutral, is no longer a good idea. It is leaving the residents of Washington D.C. at a disadvantage with respect to political elections.

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