Raising the profile of the District’s struggle to win voting rights in Congress to the international level could create some interesting geopolitical dynamics. Imagine Chinese President Xi Jinping denouncing D.C.’s disenfranchisement in Congress as a human rights violation. Picture Russian President Vladimir Putin lecturing the White House for denying voting representation to citizens in the nation’s capital. “I don’t want to encourage anybody to poke a stick in our eye in the United States, but the reality is, I think we have some vulnerability on that and there are groups that are eager to find some chink in the United States’ armor,” said former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., during a recent symposium on congressional representation for D.C. residents hosted by the William & Mary Election Law Program. Davis believes that launching an international dialogue on the issue could be helpful in pressing it forward politically. As one of the staunchest allies the District has ever had in Congress, Davis repeatedly defended the city during his 14 years in Congress and pushed legislation to give the District a vote in the House.
“This is the capital of the free world, and we were spending really, literally billions of dollars to bring democracy to faraway places like Baghdad, Kabul, and here in the nation’s capital this was just a crying deficiency overlooked by the Founding Fathers,” he said Friday.
That logic couldn’t convince Capitol Hill to make Davis’s legislation into law, but he believes it is possible to restart the debate with some added pressure from outside groups.
Bob Bauer, an election law expert and former counsel to President Barack Obama, agreed the fight could be re-energized by a new bipartisan conversation on voting rights, but is a bit wary of international involvement.