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District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about the DC voting rights bill that the Senate just voted on. I am disappointed that this measure failed to receive the necessary 60 votes in order for the bill to be considered.

This is a bill that seeks to protect the most fundamental right of citizens in our democracy the right to vote. Different generations in our Nation's history have struggled to gain and safeguard this universal right--from the 15th amendment, which extended the right to vote to newly freed slaves, to the 19th amendment, which guaranteed the right to women, and finally to the Voting Rights Act, which gave real substance to voting laws that had been previously abused. Yet, as we speak, this most basic right in a democracy is denied to the citizens of the District of Columbia.

Our brave civil rights leaders sacrificed too much to ensure that every American has the right to vote for us to tolerate the disenfranchisement of the nearly 600,000 residents of the District of Columbia. Those who live in our Nation's Capital pay taxes like other Americans. They serve bravely in the Armed Forces to defend our country like other Americans. They are called to sit on Federal juries like other Americans. Yet they are not afforded a vote in Congress. Instead, they are granted a nonvoting Delegate who can sit in the House of Representatives and serve on committees but cannot cast a vote when legislation comes to the floor.

As a community organizer in Chicago and as a civil rights attorney, I learned that disenfranchisement can lead to disengagement from our political system. In many parts of DC, you can look down the street and see the dome of the U.S. Capitol. Yet so many of these streets couldn't be more disconnected from their Government.

If we are to take seriously our claim to a government of, by, and for the people, Washington shouldn't be just the seat of our Government, but it also should reflect the core values and fundamental promise of our democracy. Denying the right to vote to citizens who are equally subject to the laws of this Nation undermines a central premise of our representative Government. The right to vote belongs to every American, regardless of race, creed, gender, or geography.

For these reasons, I fully support this important legislation. Although today's vote is a disappointment, I will continue to work with Mayor Fenty, Congresswoman Norton, and the sponsors of this bill until the residents of the District of Columbia achieve full representation in Congress.


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