DC Voting Rights Act Could Benefit Montana
Research Findings Show Bill Could Help, Not Hurt, Montana's Influence in Congress
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April 7, 2008
Washington, DC - Advocacy organizations, DC Vote and DC Appleseed, have presented Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) with a memo from Latham & Watkins LLP that addresses the Senator's concerns about the DC Voting Rights Act (S. 1257).
On September 18, 57 members of the Senate voted in favor of cloture - to bring the bill to the floor for debate. Sen. Baucus was the lone Democrat who voted against this bill that would provide the more than half a million residents of Washington, DC, a voting member in the House of Representatives. In a statement after the vote, Baucus expressed concern that "Montana's voice [in the House of Representatives] would become less influential" should the bill become law.
Latham & Watkins, found that the effect of the DC Voting Rights Act "will not weaken Montana's representation in the House, but, to the contrary, has the potential to eventually increase it."
The team's research resulted in two significant findings. First, in a fifteen-year period from 1991 to 2006 (from the 102nd to 109th Congress), just 1.2% of roll call votes in the House were decided by a margin of three or fewer votes. Of the same votes, only 41, or less than one-half of one percent, resulted in a tie or a one-vote margin. To date, there have been no ties and only a single one-vote outcome in the 110th Congress.
Secondly, the findings show that the DC Voting Rights Act will not harm Montana because, by increasing the House's membership, by one jurisdiction in DC, "the measure results in smaller congressional districts and thus actually improves Montana's prospects of gaining a second representative by reducing the average number of persons per congressional district." According to the "Hill method" of apportioning seats in the House, at the time of the 2000 census, Montana would have needed an additional 8,168 people to gain a second seat in the current 435-seat House. In a 437-seat House, however, Montana would have faced a somewhat smaller population hurdle of 7,829 people in order to qualify for a second House seat.
"These findings prove what we have known all along," said Ilir Zherka, DC Vote Executive Director. "Giving the 580,000 residents of the District a seat at the table of American Democracy will not affect Montana's voice in Congress."
Zherka added, "The heart of the issue is that all tax-paying Americans deserve a voice in government. The complaint of 'dilution' has been a rallying cry against increasing the franchise throughout history - when women were given the vote, when African Americans were given the vote and when the voter age was decreased. Our democracy has only been strengthened with each milestone in our country's voting history. We hope that Sen. Baucus will reconsider his position and vote on the right side of history."
Read the full Latham & Watkins memorandum here: