July 2001 Newsletter
DC VOTE FINDS NATIONAL SUPPORT AT PRIDE FESTIVAL
More than 650 people signed DC Vote's petition demanding full representation for D.C. at the Annual Capital Pride Festival on June 10, 2001. DC Vote's booth enjoyed a steady stream of visitors eager to buy "Taxation without Representation" bumper stickers, key chains, license plate holders and t-shirts. Pride participants from across the country were enthusiastic about DC Vote's presence at the festival. Virginia and Maryland residents seemed especially eager to be "good neighbors" by showing their support for D.C. voting rights. The sale of "Taxation Without Representation" merchandise raised more than $900 for DC Vote.
"Today the citizens of the District of Columbia are embarking on an extraordinary effort to make the members of the new Congress aware of the city, the historic neighborhoods, and the people who live where they serve," said Amy Whitcomb Slemmer. "As the members of the 107th Congress look for opportunities for bipartisan cooperation, we believe that full enfranchisement for the 570,000 people living in the District of Columbia should be at the top of their list," she added.
Become Famous: Send DC Vote a Photo! If you are a non-District resident or plan to travel outside of D.C., send in a photo of yourself wearing the "Taxation Without Representation" t-shirt in front of a well-known landmark or landscape. These pictures will be posted on the DC Vote website (www.dcvote.org) to show that disenfranchisement of D.C. isn't just a local issue - it's every American's concern. T-shirts are $15.00 and are available in sizes M, L, XL and XXL by contacting DC Vote.
DC Vote wants to reach as many people as possible - to inform, educate and recruit new supporters and volunteers! Is there an upcoming event that you think DC Vote should attend? Let us know by contacting our office at 202-462-6000 or email@example.com.
FREEDOM SUMMER AIMS TO EDUCATE TOURISTS
In a spirited effort to educate Americans on the status of the District's lack of voting representation in Congress, DC Vote and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) are hailing this season as "D.C. Freedom Summer." The goal is to reach the hundreds of thousands of tourists that visit the nation's capital during the summer months, and teach them about the 200-year struggle for full voting rights in the nation's capital.
"Our biggest challenge is to bring national attention to the disenfranchisement of the 570,000 residents of D.C. Most people from other parts of the country just aren't aware that such an inequity exists in America in the 21st century. When they find out, they are shocked and overwhelmingly supportive of our cause," said Executive Director Amy Whitcomb Slemmer.
"DC Freedom Summer" will kick off June 28 with a press conference on the Mall. Every weekend, from that day through Labor Day, volunteers decked in "Taxation Without Representation" t-shirts will walk the Mall and distribute information debunking common myths and misperceptions about the status of D.C.'s lack of voting rights. In addition, DC Vote will be raising awareness among local residents by staffing booths at street festivals and other local events throughout the summer.
Get involved! Volunteers are still needed for every aspect of DC Freedom Summer. To sign up for a shift on the Mall or to help plan related events for this summer, contact DC Vote at 202-462-6000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S LETTER
by Amy Whitcomb Slemmer
Dear Friends of DC Vote,
You will soon receive a letter from the federal government describing the amount of your tax rebate. For some, this money will be needed for life's essentials such as housing, health care or food. For others who may not need this check, DC Vote invites you to invest it in our civil rights movement.
By donating all or part of your tax rebate, you can help end Taxation Without Representation for the 570,000 residents of D.C. Your contribution is tax-deductible and will help support DC Vote's efforts to win full voting representation in Congress for the District of Columbia.
Women appreciated the assistance of men to secure the right to vote. Blacks were joined by whites to win the right to vote. Likewise, those of us who live in the District of Columbia must rely on the support and advocacy of people around the country who have voting representation in Congress in order to win our right to vote.
Thank you for your continued support,
TEN MYTHS ABOUT THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
by Mark David Richards
- D.C. citizens have the same constitutional rights as citizens who live in states.
- The founders meant for it to be like this.
- D.C. citizens pay no federal or state taxes -- U.S. taxpayers pay for nearly everything.
- People who live in D.C. have more influence because they are closer to the President and Congress.
- Everyone from D.C. is from somewhere else, so they vote in the state where they're from.
- Washington, D.C. is a city.
- D.C. is too small to have equal rights.
- D.C. citizens do not reflect the culture, values or attitudes of the fifty states.
- D.C. is treated differently because it is the capital of the nation -- D.C. belongs to all Americans.
- D.C. citizens haven't worked hard enough to change their status.
DC VOTING RIGHTS 101
A group of present and future DC Vote volunteers crowded into a downtown conference room earlier this month for a primer on the District's lack of voting rights. A variety of speakers, including lawyers, scholars and politicians, took turns teaching this short course informally referred to as "DC Voting Rights 101."
Historian Mark David Richards explained how differing national priorities, racial politics and the status quo have left
D.C. residents without representation in Congress for more than 200 years. Richards says many members of Congress have declared that the District should not have representation until it is economically stable, yet the lack of representation is, in large part, what has caused this instability.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton
(D-D.C.) updated the group on the progress of her bill to suspend federal income taxes for D.C. residents until they are represented in Congress. The bill, HR1193, was introduced in March; Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) is sponsoring the Senate version. Del. Norton recognizes that her proposal is unlikely to pass in the present Congress, but believes it will be a good vehicle to educate members of the House and Senate about the District's situation. She is also planning lobbying activities in the fall, with the goal of winning 100% support from Democratic House members and as much Republican support as possible.
Attorney Walter Smith summarized the history of the legal efforts to win voting rights for District residents. Although judges in recent cases have ruled against plaintiffs who were suing for their voting rights, Smith says that the most recent verdict did offer hope. "The U.S. Supreme Court set an important precedent by implying that, while the issue is outside the scope of a judicial ruling, Congress does hold the power to restore the vote," he explained. However, many advocates for representation favor a constitutional amendment, which would make the vote permanent, as opposed to a law passed in Congress, which could easily be overturned in a future law.
Several times, members of the audience became vocal about their preferred solution, including statehood, retrocession or a constitutional amendment. However, DC Vote Executive Director Amy Slemmer reiterated the organization's pledge to avoid endorsing a specific path to voting rights. Instead, she wants to prevent the movement from becoming divisive by including as many supporters as possible, representing a wide range of ages, races, opinions and strategies.
Look for another "DC Voting Rights 101" course to be held Wednesday, July 11 from 6:45-8 p.m. DC Vote is hoping to attract Hill interns and summer associates who can bring this movement back to their campuses in the fall.
STAFF SPOTLIGHT: JAMAL NAJJAB
DC Vote is thrilled to announce the arrival of our new full-time staff member, Jamal Najjab. Jamal became our Executive Assistant in June, and will also serve as Volunteer Coordinator, among other various tasks. He brings much enthusiasm, energy and confidence to the position.
"With my political experience, I can help DC Vote work toward a cause that has affected my life greatly," he says.
Before moving to the District, Jamal spent three years in Jerusalem, as a journalist for the weekly Arab paper Al-Fajr. He traveled all over the Middle East, working with people of many cultures and backgrounds. When he moved back to the U.S., he focused on increasing voter turnout among Arab-Americans.
After studying conflict analysis and resolution at George Mason University, Jamal comes to us from the Andromeda Transcultural Mental Health Clinic in Washington. He is a 13-year resident of the District and lives in Adams Morgan with his wife, Naseela, and his six-month-old son, Laith.
Please help us in welcoming Jamal to our staff. He will be the friendly voice on the line when you call the DC Vote office.
DASCHLE SUPPORTS HEARINGS
Senator Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), the new Senate Majority leader, told reporters recently that he'd like to hold hearings on District voting rights. He says he's always been in favor of representation.
"I will strongly recommend that we hold hearings and
that we call attention to this issue," Daschle said.
"And that's about all I can commit to at this time."